Tag Archives: xavier dolan

IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD

“…Dolan has come up with yet another film of quite devastating impact.”

Wayward Wolf.

Director Xavier Dolan is no stranger to confrontational, explosive content, and his latest piece, It’s Only the End of the World – based loosely on Jean-Luc Lagarce’s play – continues in a familiar vein.

Employing the incredibly effective, yet highly claustrophobic technique of using tight close up shots pretty much throughout, Dolan’s film conjures up a suffocating, unsettling, and deeply awkward air, right from the start.

Louis (the softly-spoken Noah Wyle-alike, Gaspard Ulliel), is returning home after an absence of some twelve years. A cursory glance at the film’s synopsis in advance of any viewing will make sense of much of the film’s content, however, going into it blind as I did left much room for ambiguity. There are certainly many ways of interpreting the array of dysfunctional and erratic behaviour on display without necessarily coming to any sort of concrete conclusions, let alone the correct one.

For those that wish to know: Louis is returning home to announce that he is terminally ill and that he is not long for this world. Exactly what is wrong with him is never established owing to the absolute barrage of issues and the undercurrents of family bitterness and self-interest that completely swamp Louis and any attempts he may make to announce his news during the visit.

Chief protagonist in conjuring up the absolute tsunami of ill-feeling that seems to completely envelop the family is older brother, Antoine (an absolutely sensational bordering on unhinged performance from Vincent Cassel), whose anger-fuelled sarcasm and acerbic ripostes do little to encourage a free-flowing dialogue of compassion amongst the family members.

Younger sister, Suzanne (the ever impressive Léa Seydoux), so keen to catch up with and indeed get to know the brother that’s been absent for most of her formative years, is given scant opportunity to do so thanks in part to her own selfish interests, but chiefly due to the ever-present dark cloud of misery that Antoine insists on hanging heavy over the party.

A strong -willed mother (Nathalie Baye), and Catherine (Marion Cotillard), complete this particular gathering of doom, in amongst whom, Louis waits patiently and nervously for the opportune moment to announce his grave news.

It is a moment that never comes, although there are insinuations during the film that some family members may be marginally less clueless of Louis’ intentions than others.

The whole thing remains fairly ambiguous, though Dolan does superbly well to ramp up the atmosphere and tension throughout to the point at which something surely has to give.

Or perhaps not? You’ll need to see for yourselves.

It’s Only the End of the World is a dialogue-heavy piece, yet Dolan finds ways of administering his own brand of agitated energy and dynamism to proceedings, made so much easier thanks to an absolutely stella cast performing at the very top of their games.

With the highly effective use of montages and a score that successfully swells the already palpable levels of negative tension to at times unbearably bloated levels, Dolan has come up with yet another film of quite devastating impact. A highly challenging piece that frequently threatens to boil over, yet, is just about reined in sufficiently to keep us guessing right through to the film’s ambiguous conclusion.

FILM REVIEW: MOMMY

There are some films that somehow suit the cinema in which they are shown.

Hidden away, yet only a stone’s throw from Leicester Square, is the sorry looking, run down, neglected, yet considerably charming Odeon on London’s Panton Street.

Sat amongst the customary handful of waifs, strays and assorted degenerates that always seem to coincide their film watching jamboree with my own, at this, the mother of all throw-back cinemas, you somehow couldn’t ask for a better venue to take in a gritty, Xavier Dolan offering.

Dolan’s last outing, back in 2014, was the excellent ‘Tom à la ferme’; a look at a family’s dysfunctionality, forbidden secrets and their coming to terms with bereavement. The main theme of family dysfunction is further explored here in ‘Mommy,’ another hard-hitting piece, exploring an alternative and much darker take on the classic, happy family unit.

Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon – massively dislikeable here in the main, in a good way), is a truly repellant teenager, but in fairness, there are mitigating cirumstances for this; he suffers from acute ADHD, a condition that has led him to be expelled from education establishments in which he’s caused untold havoc with serious, lasting repercussions. Steve’s mother, Diane (Anne Dorval), arrives on the scene to bring her son home. It’s a victory for heart over head, but in Diane’s mind, blood is thicker than water, family is family and it’s the right thing to do. It just so happens to be the only thing possible left to do, too. It’s a good job Steve has a mother like Diane who is at pains to insist that he’s a good boy at heart.

So unfolds a harrowing period of conflict, both verbal and physical, between Steve and his mother as they jostle for supremacy of the household. It’s only when shy but beguiling neighbour Kyla (Suzanne Clement), enters their lives, befriends Diane and and becomes Steve’s home tutor, that, for an all too rare moment in time, Steve is able to rediscover genuine happiness and peace in his life; shedding his considerable burdens and living once again with some hope for his own future.

Dolan makes good use of an interesting technique of restricting the screen’s visual perspective to an unconventional 5:4 ratio which brings with it a sort of suffocating, restrictive feel to proceedings, presumably mirroring the exasperation, suffocation and hopelessness felt by Steve, his mother and Kyla.

On those fleeting occasions during the film when Steve  and consequently Diane and Kyla, appear to be embracing happiness, the screen opens out with the use of a more conventional and liberating 16:9,  widescreen perspective; in effect the world of possibility literally, visually opens up for them all.

It’s an intriguing relationship that Dolan paints between Steve, his mother and Kyla, a lady with her own family unit yet clearly experiencing feelings of suffocation and unfulfillment in her life; indeed, all three of the film’s key characters are sort of kindred spirits; made for and needing one another more than they may realise or would care to admit; a sort of surrogate family for each other. It’s unconventional, but it works.

There’s certainly no pulling of punches with Dolan’s in-your-face style of dialogue and direction. He does a great job of  exploring inside the fragile minds of characters that are deeply troubled in their own way and who shoulder their own considerable emotional baggage.

On a slightly critical note, the film’s conclusion seemed just a little undercooked and the screenplay occasionally loses it’s way, but no matter; the good work that precedes it firmly establishes ‘Mommy’ as a powerful and somewhat troubling story of frustration, home truths and tough love and is yet more evidence of Xavier Dolan’s burgeoning reputation as one of the best young film makers out there.

FILM REVIEW: Tom à la ferme

I saw the strap line of a review for ‘Tom à la ferme’ just after watching the film; it read, “dark yet strangely romantic.”

I’d go along with that although I’d also add “disjointed” and “complicated” but that’s “disjointed” to the film’s advantage and “complicated” in the way that only the most dis functional of relationships can be at times, be they relationships of the family or of passion.

It’s this sort of blend of ingredients that renders us utterly unable to avert our eyes or quell our ever growing sense of intrigue and it makes for a very unsettling, yet captivating viewing experience; “captivating” being very much the key word here.

Add to this, secrets and lies, a mild case of Stockholm syndrome, misplaced love, abuse and an overall sense of deep-rooted unhappiness and that’s quite a messed up recipe.

A mother from a family ‘unit’ that’s almost entirely unravelled, grieving for the loss of a son she really knew very little about. She lives in a world of denial with an elder, psychotic son that she can barely bring herself to love. He himself harbours  a sinister past and an equally unsavoury present, in a town that has disowned them both.

…and then there’s Tom, unwittingly stumbling into the middle of it all.

Will he be the catalyst for the building of family bridges or will his own truth (bizarrely perhaps the biggest unspoken secret of all) be the final straw? The tale unfolds…

This certainly ain’t Disney, but it’s an excellently observed piece from director and lead role (Tom) Xavier Dolan and definitely one of the year’s highlights to date.