As a celebration of the unprecedented number of Canadian films that competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2014 Cannes International Film Festival, Moviefone Canada is highlighting each of these works.
If he wasn't such a charming, intelligent and clearly grounded guy, I might be a bit more annoyed and jealous by the tremendous success Xavier Dolan has already seen at such a young age. At only 25 years old (!), he's attending Cannes with his fifth feature (!!), his previous film having debuted at Venice and the Toronto Film Festival just last September (!!!).
Besides making me feel downright decrepit (the way, I assume, a 26-year-old Orson Welles must have made a few 30-something titans of 1940s Hollywood feel mildly past their prime), it's clear from the film that he's written and directed that he's full of life and ambition, crafting a beautiful tale that mixes supreme highs and gut-wrenching lows.
Set in the Montreal suburbs, "Mommy" is a rare film of beauty. With a stalwart ensemble cast that includes Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon and Suzanne Clément -- all veterans of other Dolan productions -- we get to witness some stellar performances with real heart and passion.
Screening at Cannes, the film was subtitled in both English and (French) French. The Québecois patois is thick and furious, the neologisms and swear words littered throughout requiring careful translation in order to make sense of the rat-a-tat rhythms of the dialogue. Add one more checkbox to Dolan's resumé, for he did the translation himself, having been burned here before when a so-called professional translator took out what he referred to as the "poetry" of his local dialect.
Dolan describes the film as being about the myth of the American dream, how those from particular socio-economic circumstances (in this case, the uneducated and underemployed) really have a near-impossible task in overcoming their lot in life.
Featuring a single mom with a violent, manic son, the film is set in what's dubbed a "near future," where a parent unable to care for their troubled ward can drop them off for institutionalization, no questions asked. It's a near future and very much a return to the past, mixing 19th century asylum mentality with contemporary concerns about mental health, and the nature of love between mother and son. Assisted by a kind neighbour who herself is going through her own struggles, this unlikely trio go through many ups and downs together through the film's running time.
Shot with a unique aspect ratio (1:1), a vertical image that's shaped like a camera phone screen (taller than wide, with black bars on the side), it gives the film a window into the world of Steve, his mom Die, and their neighbor Kyla.
Applause erupted at the press screening during a particularly ambitious moment, and there was rapturous applause when the credits began to roll. There's so much to love here, from the use of music (including a bravado montage involving Oasis' "Wonderwall"), the changing colour palates, the rich and metaphoric storyline and pitch-perfect performances.
As a showcase of contemporary Quebécois/Canadian cinema, Canadians can be supremely proud that Dolan's "Mommy" is waving the flag. It's one of those films you hope to see at a festival such as this, that feeling of discovery, of history being written and a career taking off. We've already heard quite a bit from this young man, but expect to hear plenty more of note in the years to come.
"Mommy" will get a Canadian (and perhaps North American) release date at some point in 2014. There is no official trailer available for this movie at the time of this writing.