Starring Michel Cí´té and Marc-André Grondin. In French with English subtitles. Rated 14A. For showtimes, please see page 80

An intimate story told on an epic scale, C.R.A.Z.Y. is a delightfully satisfying mix of the particular and the universal, with enough dark shading to ward off sentimentality.

Imaginatively crafted by Quebec veteran Jean-Marc Vallée (Liste Noir) with a script he adapted from Franí§ois Boulay's novel, with the author's help, the film starts in 1960 with the birth of Zachary, fourth son of devoted parents Laurianne and Gervais Beaulieu (Danielle Proulx and an outstanding Michel Cí´té). Vallée's own son, Emile, plays Zachary in the mid-'60s scenes until his part is taken over by the handsome Marc-André Grondin, who has the charm to keep our sympathy right through the razor-blades-and-leather era. Throughout, the introspective lad remains his dad's favourite son, even though the latter's gruff efforts to ensure a rough-and-tumble heir increasingly backfire as the boy gets older.

While Zachary comes very reluctantly to grips with his sexuality, elder brother Raymond (Pierre-Luc Brillant) lives up to macho ideals, riding a Harley, getting tattoos, doing drugs, and bringing hot chicks back to his room. But the bearded, brooding fellow doesn't seem to be able to get much attention from his papa, who, truth be told, prefers listening to his Patsy Cline records to working on cars. In this vein, Dad's annual Christmas sing-along with a favourite Charles Aznavour cut is a running gag that takes on more poignancy as the years go by.

At 127 minutes, the tale could have spent a little more time with the other brothers, who are handed a few individuating tics rather than whole personalities. (Their initials add up to the title, by the way.) And Vallée, in some ways, skirts around his lead character's gayness, just as Zachary himself does for much of the story, going so far as to talk himself into getting a girlfriend to please the folks (if not the girlfriend). At the same time, the director's gentle hand on what could have been inflammatory material ensures that this remains a coming-of-age saga that parents can take their own kids to.

The film is deliriously shot and cleverly edited, even if some of the period details are a bit off, especially in the mid-1970s. It also has a phenomenal soundtrack, with Zachary's bedroom reading of a classic David Bowie tune one of the best depictions of adolescent angst and ecstasy ever committed to film. After all, what teenager hasn't felt like a "Space Oddity" without even leaving home?