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December 22, 2015

Mommy (2015)
Director: Xavier Dolan
Actors: Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Suzanne Clément

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Synopsis: Delinquent teen, Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), is released from a young offenders institute back into the care of his single mother, Diane (Anne Dorval). Diane tries to provide a safe platform for Steve: moving to a quiet suburban street, grafting hard for work, and even ingratiating herself with the interested neighbour, Kyla (Suzanne Clément), but Steve’s sheer volatility threatens the fragile, new-found harmony….

Review: Xavier Dolan’s operatic, hysterical ballad to a primal mother-son relationship is one of the most visually arresting films I’ve seen in a long time, but it’s an extremely gauche work where Dolan struggles to meld his audacious command of technique to his own self-imposed obligation of committing to a conventional(ish) story.

It really is an extremely formal and aesthetic film, almost like an earnest appropriation of the French nouvelle vague where the very apparatus of the medium merges into, and in a sense becomes, the sentiment of the story. That said, Dolan is no Jean-Luc Godard just yet, and his major weakness is that beneath the razzamatazz, he’s saddled himself with a straightforward narrative, thus his artillery of amazing sonic and cinematographic flourishes (slo-mo, tracking shots, pop songs – some diegetic, others non-diegetic) merely serves the purpose of hammering home the subtext of the piece, or in being unearned and transparent exhibitions of showy technique (the stunning ‘fantasy’ sequence of what a successful life would look like for Steve, being a case in point.)

There are some cracking images to gorge on though, and I almost wonder that with the volume off, what we might have here is a very effective silent movie! At least Dolan is aspirational, ambitious and trying to push the medium forward, so I look forward to seeing what he does in the years to come….(December 2015)

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