by Mark Wilshin
Returning to the subject of his first film I Killed My Mother, Xavier Dolan’s Mommy describes the tempestuous relationship between mother and son. Its script is as funny, sassy and outrageous as his debut and also features Anne Dorval as the eponymous chain-smoking, loud-mouthed force of nature. But this is Dolan five films on, and there’s a beautiful maturity to his familiar joie de vivre. The film is shot in a narrow aspect ratio, which gives the images the haunting immediacy of photography. But it’s not until Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), on one of his better days, stretches open the frame for freedom and a chance to breathe that we realise it’s a box that confines mother and son in a trap of money, the law and violent, unpredictable behaviour. The film has a dazzling autumnal patina of metallic sheen surfaces, crepuscular sunlight and lens flares. As well as terrific performances from Dorval, Pilon and Suzanne Clément. Like Laurence Anyways or Heartbeats, there are moments of great beauty and Dolan really masters now his much imitated style, and the stunning set-piece here is a fantasy montage of the life Diane hopes for for her son. It’s a melodrama – the tight-knit, mutually dependent and briefly incestuous relationship between mother and son that provides the film’s backbone rather than any issue such as its fictitious health reforms. But despite this, Mommy is strangely unmoving – the film’s finer moments unable to find full expression amid its relentlessly humorous and screeching tone. Nevertheless, Dolan’s best film to date, Mommy is bursting with so much energy it might just need a straitjacket.
Mommy is showing on Oct 16th & 19th at the 58th BFI London Film Festival