December 01, 2003 12:00 PM

Rémy Girard, Stéphane Rousseau

When it becomes clear that Rémy (Girard), a history professor in Quebec, hasn’t long to live, his family and friends gather round. His ex-wife, who endured his philandering, is now simply amused by his self-involved antics. His son (Rousseau), an investment banker in London, returns after keeping his distance, both geographical and emotional, from his dad ever since the divorce. They and Rémy’s pals—some of them former lovers, some just lifelong friends—sit by his hospital bed, chewing over old times and the present, and trying to figure out the meaning of life.

The Barbarian Invasions revisits characters from French-Canadian director-writer Denys Arcand’s 1986 movie The Decline of the American Empire. But this time they’re in a post-9/11 world, one where nothing seems as clear and the ties of family and friendship matter more than before. It’s an affecting film and a wise one, but at times seems a mite too caught up in its own cleverness. (R)

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