Winter 2015 Features series
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 7:00pm
Directed by Xavier Dolan
Screenplay by Xavier Dolan
Starring Suzanne Clément, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, and Anne Dorval
Rated 14A ·
English and French
Audacious and inspiring, Mommy shared the Special Jury Prize at Cannes and is Canada’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2015 Oscars. That it comes from a twenty-five-year-old director with five feature films under his belt confirms the fact that Xavier Dolan (J’ai tué ma mère, Heartbeats) is a phenomenon.
Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) is a troubled teenager. When his mother, Diane (Anne Dorval, J’ai tué ma mère), picks him up from a government institution to care for him at home, it is an act of deep maternal commitment—and a huge risk. Although he can be sweet as an angel, Steve is volatile. As Diane tries to manage her son’s mood swings at home, it is clear that she is not exactly serene either. A working-class Quebec woman with a messy personal life, she is barely keeping it together. When their shy neighbour Kyla (Suzanne Clément, Laurence Anyways) takes an interest in mother and son, a surprising trio develops.
The same wild energy of Dolan’s earlier films is here, but channeled to greater impact. Dolan is ably assisted by cinematographer André Turpin, himself a notable Quebec filmmaker, and in an aesthetically shocking move, they have shot most of Mommy in a 1:1 screen ratio—a square frame filled with dazzling displays of colour, movement and focus shifts that intensify the story’s emotion. The daring visual tactic creates echoes ranging from the irised close-ups of silent cinema to the Instagram dimensions of selfie culture, and Dolan deploys it to dynamic effect.
There is a slight tinge of speculative fiction in the plot of Mommy, as Dolan invents a non-existent law to impose a frame on his story. But this is a small gesture compared to the character insights and cascades of emotion on display. This is quite possibly Dolan’s best work to date.
“Dolan is a director who thinks hard about the possibilities of cinema and explores them with verve and ingenuity, but it is in his latest film that everything has come together.” (John Bleasdale, CineVue)
“There are ups and downs and soapish highs and lows, but what stops this from ever becoming a telenovela is the riveting wonder of the performances and the sheer brio of the filmmaking.” (Jessica Kiang, The Playlist)
“It’s uncanny how much Dolan’s style and overall solipsism have evolved in five years’ time, resulting in a funny, heartbreaking and, above all, original work—right down to its unusual 1:1 aspect ratio—that feels derivative of no one, not even himself.” (Peter Debruge, Variety)