Denys Arcand’s sad and funny follow-up to his acclaimed The Decline of the American Empire (Le déclin de l’empire américain )(1986), did not begin as a sequel, but rather as an attempt to come to terms with mortality during the illness, and eventual death, of both his parents from cancer.
Seventeen years after The Decline of the American Empire, the philandering Rémy is dying from cancer in a Montréal hospital. His ex-wife persuades their son, Sébastien, to leave his lucrative finance job in London and come to his father’s bedside. The tension between the arrogant capitalist Sébastien, who never forgave Rémy for his womanizing ways, and his “sensual socialist” father is palpable. Despite his antipathy towards his father, Sébastien uses his money and influence to secure Rémy a private room on an abandoned floor of the hospital and strikes a deal to provide Rémy with heroin to alleviate his pain. Surrounded by his friends at the cottage they loved so much in their youth, during their touching farewell, Rémy receives the fatal dose.
The Barbarian Invasions drew largely positive reviews following its screenings at the Cannes Film Festival and became the most successful Québec movie ever in France. It became the first Canadian feature film to win an Academy Award and the César Award (French Oscars) for Best Film.