French-Canadian filmmaker, Xavier Dolan, has released his fifth movie at 25-years-old. Like his other four, it's courting serious critical praise.
At just 25, French-Canadian writer-director-actor Xavier Dolan has a filmography that most seasoned pros would envy. Four of his five movies have premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where each of them won a major award. And the one that didn't bow at Cannes premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Fipresci Prize.
Antoine-Olivier Pilon in 'Mommy'
With his latest film 'Mommy' (last year's Cannes Jury Prize winner), the cheeky filmmaker admits that he is trying to reach a broad audience with his work. "I don't personally do movies for myself and a faction of very cerebral cinephiles," Dolan said. "I do it for everybody, and wish for the largest amount of people to relish whatever they find they can relish in."
Continue reading: 'Mommy' Makes Xavier Dolan Five For Five
One of the most jaw-dropping movies in recent years, this blackly comical drama is the most audacious work yet from Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan. It's also the 25-year-old's fifth film, after I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats, Laurence Anyway, Tom at the Farm, all of which have won various awards (including Mommy, which received the 2014 Cannes Jury Prize). But even for the ambitious Dolan, this is seriously full-on, an adrenaline rush of a movie that leaves us feeling fully alive.
The film opens as toughened survivor Diana (Anne Dorval) agrees to let her 15-year-old tearaway son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) move back home after a stint in mental-institute lockdown. He may be violent and uncontrollably hyperactive, but she can't bear to see him transferred to an adult facility. On arriving home, this strong-willed mother and son immediately lock horns. And Diana isn't sure how to cope, although she gets some assistance from two neighbours: Paul (Patrick Huard) is clearly in love with Diana and offers to help her sort out Steve's legal problems, while the darkly troubled Kyla (Suzanne Clement) has a surprising calming effect on Steve. Together, these four people are a very fragile makeshift family.
With his script and direction, Dolan ramps up the intensity right from the start, allowing the characters to scream violently at each other in ways that cleverly display their underlying affection. It's an uncanny trick that's augmented by artfully brilliant cinematography that starts out in a square box then broadens out across the screen to reflect the mor ehopeful mood shifts. Dolan also deploys music in a fiercely inventive way that underlines the emotional resonance (although there's a strange gap where a proper song feels like it's missing from the final-act montage). Every scene is so finely constructed that the emotions explode from the screen, forcing the audience to brace itself for whatever comes next.
Continue reading: Mommy Review
Diane Després (Anne Dorval) has recently lost her husband. As a newly widowed mother, she is left trying to raise her ADHD son, Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon) by herself. When she sees a new neighbour move into the house across the street, she decides that she's going to meet her, and ask her for some help raising her son. As Diane tries to press Steve with some hard love, she is overcome with not only her motherly instinct, but the knowledge that her son is a very good child, even if he's violent. But will even a mother's love endure the challenges they still have left to face?
Continue: Mommy Trailer
After I Killed My Mother and Heartbeats, 23-year-old filmmaker Dolan gets even more ambitious with this epic-length romantic drama. Not all of his flourishes work, and the film is far too long, but there are moments of artistic genius all the way through that make it worth seeing. It's also anchored by two terrific central performances that work their way under our skin.
At the centre is the free-spirited relationship between Laurence (Poupaud) and his long-time girlfriend Fred (Clement). But Fred is caught completely off-guard when Laurence tells her that he has always felt like he was a man in a woman's body, and now he wants to start the transition to become female. She initially rejects him, but realises that she still loves him, regardless of his gender. His mother (Baye) takes longer to come round. And for Laurence the treatment from his colleagues and society at large is even more difficult to cope with, as he's the brunt of rampant bigotry. Over the course of a decade, his relationship with Fred is stretched to the breaking point, and after a few years apart they meet up again to see if they still belong together.
Poupaud and Clement deliver startlingly naturalistic performances as Laurence and Fred, letting us see into their souls as they face secrets, betrayals, outside pressure and the continual feeling that they belong together. Intriguingly, all of this unfurls in a way that's completely organic, as Dolan grounds everything in real human emotions. In fact, the only complaint is that the film feels artistically indulgent, and could have used a stronger editor to shape the story into a leaner, less rambling narrative.
Continue reading: Laurence Anyways Review
Laurence and his girlfriend Fred couldn't ask for a more special relationship. They spend as much time as they have together and are as passionately in love with each other as they were when they met 10 years ago. Although tempers flare occasionally, the couple are dependent on one another and do everything within their power to disassociate themselves with other people, despite the fact that Laurence is constantly around others in his career as a teacher and writer. However, things aren't as perfect as they could be for Laurence. He has a secret that he hoped would be forgotten once he met Fred; he longs to be a woman. When he breaks down and confesses his feelings to Fred, she is initially shocked but agrees to try and make it work. When Laurence starts dressing as a woman, things are not straight forward and the prejudices of society cause him to be shunned in his career, criticised by his parents and beaten up in the street. Fred is also having second thoughts - can she maintain their troubled relationship even with the constant worry and societal pressure?
This hard-hitting French romance is one of the most mature storylines director and writer Xavier Dolan ('I Killed My Mother', 'Heartbeats') has ever worked on. It is set to be released on November 30th 2012 in the UK.
Director: Xavier Dolan
Continue: Laurence Anyways Trailer
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