The eldest son of the isolated Poulin family dies at home unexpectedly after a brief illness. (1:01)
Shopkeeper and undertaker Antoine and his foster child Benoit place young Poulin's body in a box. His mother cries. (1:18)
Antoine has been drinking all Christmas Eve and continues at the Poulin's home and on the long trip back by horse and sleigh. If you have read Farley Mowat, you understand how winter in the far north brings the matter of survival into sharp focus even without alcohol. Although we have no reason to believe that Antoine suffers from alcoholism we see how Alcohol Intoxication jeopardizes his life and that of Benoit. He is so impaired that, when the box containing Poulin's body falls off the sleigh Benoit wisely chooses to abandon the body in order to save himself and Antoine from certain death in the bitter Christmas cold.