A Touching Film About a Troubled Teenager

in 11th Jameson CineFest Miskolc International Film Festival

by Pierre-Yves Roger

Xavier Dolan is only 25 and Mommy is already his fifth full-length feature. This very touching film, which shows in a very realistic way the relationships between a troubled teenager, his mother and a neighbour, shared the Jury Prize in the main competition at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival with Jean-Luc Godard’s film Goodbye to Language (Adieu au langage). Xavier Dolan is no actor in this film, but he is totally involved in it, as director, producer, screenwriter, as well as editor.

Mommy tells the story of an impulsive teenager, who is expelled from a rehabilitation centre. His mother Diane (Anne Dorval), who lives alone, accepts to take him back home. Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) is sometimes gentle and funny, but he can also be very violent. For the two of them, living under the same roof is very difficult. A neighbour, Kyla (Suzanne Clement), a teacher who has a diction problem, agrees to help Steve with his studies. A close relationship begins between these three very different characters. Dolan shot the film in the suburbs of Montreal, where a lot of people speak joual, a French dialect that is very difficult to understand for French people. His casting is perfect, with three brilliant actors who already acted in some of his earlier films. The three characters, who try to cope with the difficulties in their life, are totally credible. Suzanne is particularly exceptional in her role of a disturbed neighbour.

Dolan holds our attention throughout by employing excellent dialogue, music, lighting techniques, as well as a very unusual picture format, which is square, and sometimes expands to enhance the wide range of emotions expressed by the actors.

When Dolan received his award at Cannes, he paid tribute to the Jury president, Jane Campion. “The Piano (Campion’s film) was the first film that I watched and that truly defined who I am… It made me want to write films for beautiful women with a soul and will, and strength”, he said. With the roles of Diane and Kyla, as portrayed in the film Mommy, he has beyond any doubt succeeded.

Mommy has been chosen to represent Canada as a possible candidate in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the next Academy Awards in February 2015.

After I Killed My Mother (J’ai tué ma mère), Heartbeats (Les Amours imaginaires), Laurence Anyways, Tom at the Farm (Tom à la ferme) and Mommy, Dolan is already working on his sixth film, which will be his first English-language feature: The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, with Jessica Chastain.

Edited by Birgit Beumers