After black comedy (I Killed My Mother), ethereal romance (Heartbeats) and gender-bending drama (Laurence Anyways), eerily gifted 25-year-old Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan turns to Hitchcock for inspiration. The result is a seriously creepy thriller that's packed with pungent themes and spiky characters. It's the kind of film that makes us laugh one minute then chills us to the bone the next.
Dolan stars as Tom, a loner who drives from his home in Montreal to the countryside to attend the funeral of his boyfriend. Arriving on the family's farm, Tom discovers that his boyfriend had never come out to his mother Agathe (Lise Roy), and older son Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) threatens Tom to keep him quiet. So when Agathe asks about her son's girlfriend, Tom calls his friend Sara (Evelyne Brochu) and asks her to come. Meanwhile, Tom finds himself caught in a web of erotic attraction and dark fear as the mercurial Francis bullies him mercilessly, putting him to work on the farm.
With its North by Northwest setting and intense filmmaking style, Dolan continually drops hints that surprise us as the story twists and turns. Nothing feels safe in this beautiful place, as the cornfields have frighteningly sharp leaves and the barns aren't as deserted as they seem to be. The slight Dolan and beefy Cardinal make a striking on-screen pair, and both actors let us see under the surface in unexpected ways. Like Tom, we are both drawn to and terrified of Francis. And the two women in the mix add to the shifting dynamic.
Continue reading: Tom at the Farm Review
Still, it's not what you may think. First-time filmmaker Daniel Roby introduces us to Black, streetwise Henri (Frédéric Pierre) and naïve White country boy Thierry (Marc Paquet), Montreal roommates who visit a pair of prostitutes in the film's first sequence. Nervous Thierry isn't interested, but confesses to his dame that he abhors redheads, that their pale skin makes him "want to vomit." Meanwhile, in the next room, something seriously bloody is going down with Henri and his redheaded hooker.
Continue reading: White Skin Review
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