Take a Drink: for every quality parenting decision from Die. Yes, that’s sarcastic.
Take a Drink: for every grammatical mistake of Steve’s the poor translator had to deal with
Take a Drink: whenever Steve acts out
Do a Shot: for every mention of the new law
By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
Xavier Dolan is 26 years old. He has made five films, played In Competition in Cannes, and had the privilege of being snubbed by Oscar twice already.
That’s how you know you’re good.
While Laurence Anyways is one of my favorite films period, Mommy is the film that really broke Dolan through into the big time, arguably even getting snubbed for the Palme D’Or last year. It’s set in a near future Canada where parents can easily institutionalize problem children. Single mom Die (Anne Dorval) has such a child, Steve (Antoine Pilon), but is intent on avoiding that and getting her volatile teenage progeny through school. Quiet, seemingly timid neighbor Kyla (Suzanne Clement) offers to pitch in and help tutor/babysit him. For a time, everything looks like it’ll be okay…
The first thing you’ll notice is that Mommy is shot in the boxy, almost square Academy ratio. There’s a reason for this that I won’t give away, but it’s both stunning and incredibly evocative. Even giving away 40% of the screen, DP Andre Turpin fills his frame gorgeously, and in scenes where Steve freaks out, or outside forces threaten the characters, the frame almost seems to shrink and imprison these characters. In other, more joyous scenes, Dolan challenges the fourth wall in exhilarating ways without ever breaking it.
That’s Mickey’s m.o.
With touches like this, and a masterful hand with a truly eclectic soundtrack (“White Flag”, “On Ne Change Pas”, “Blue (Da Ba Dee)”, “Wonderwall”) Dolan establishes himself as our foremost cinematic depicter of joy, and, through devastating juxtaposition, grief. Of course, acting is essential to bringing this off, and each of the principals is more than up to the task. Clement is the polar opposite of her character in Laurence Anyways– tentative, stuttering, but with hidden buttons you’d best not push.
You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry…
Dorval is stunning, a woman of complexity who seems anything but on the surface. She’s torn between clearly loving her son, exhibiting an odd, ultra-informal chemistry with him, and the near impossibility and desperate nature of dealing with his volatility. He’s positively volcanic, and Pilon creates a hilarious, heartbreaking, awful little shit of a character, but in the end you’ll somehow find yourself cheering for him.
With Mommy, Xavier Dolan continues to assert his status as one of the most exciting talents in the world today.