Summary: A small town, a quiet street; children playing hockey, a dog trying to catch a ball. From her kitchen window, Stéphanie, 34 years old, dressed in jogging pants and a t-shirt, watches the children play as she finishes preparing a hearty breakfast. Daydreaming, she smiles sadly: her boyfriend, allergic to cats, has given her an ultimatum … Stéphanie will pick the cat.
This is Yves Pelletier’s first foray into comics and Pascal Girard’s third book for La Pastèque. ‘Valentin’ should appeal to real estate agents, freelancers, cats and promote antihistamines.
Valentin, by Yves Pelletier and Pascal Girard 7.5
‘Valentin’ is a sweet-looking little book that relates the impact that a cat has on Stéphanie and Fabien’s relationship. It was penned by comedian Yves Pelletier, of Rock et Belles Oreille fame, the director of ‘Les aimants’ and ‘Le Baiser du barbu‘.
Over the course of approximately 130 pages, Pelletier introduces us to a couple that is slightly out of synch, focused on different goals, and how a simple matter can become a huge turning point when individual needs aren’t being met.
In ‘Valentin’, we find Stéphanie feeling neglected by Fabien, an up-and-coming real estate agent who spends more time at work than she would prefer. To fill the void, she decides to bring Valentin, a cat, home – despite Fabien’s intense allergic reactions to it.
What follows is a series of changes in their lives as she becomes obsessed with her new-found love, her pet, and Fabien’s unhappiness as he and she rapidly grow apart. It’s sometimes amusing, often frustrating, but it almost always appears realistic: there are people who live such experiences, I’m sure.
What doesn’t work for me is the degree of selfishness to which Stéphanie subjects Fabien; it’s completely unconscionable to force Fabien to live with a cat and to constantly break the few guidelines that they set in place for his own comfort. It’s either inconsiderate to the highest degree, or it’s overt aggression as a replacement for assertive conflict resolution.
Either way, it’s unpleasant. And it makes of Stéphanie an unsavoury character – much like Vicky was in Pelletier’s ‘Le baiser du barbu’.
In fact, the parallels between this book and Pelletier’s film are such that I wonder what he is trying to convey or work out in his own life: In both stories the woman comes off as a real d!ck. In both cases the stories are about mildly dysfunctional couples who are at odds over their lifestyles. And, strangely enough, both revolve around allergies.
It makes for a relatively sober tale, but thankfully Pascal Girard softens everything up with his pleasing, if slightly simplistic, artwork. Consisting of loose penciling and watercolours, he gives ‘Valentin’ and “girly” look that is likely intentional, given that the book is mostly focused on Stéphanie. Overall, his work is pleasing to the eye, but hardly a wonder.
All in all, ‘Valentin’ is a decent graphic novel that rehashes themes we’d seen before with this particular author. As a stand-alone project it’s a good read, but considered in his oeuvre it seems redundant. Or, perhaps ‘Le baiser du barbu’ should be the one to be considered superfluous: after all, ‘Valentin’ is without a doubt the better of the two works.