Review: Mommy

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With this feature, Xavier Dolan proves that at only 25, he has already matured his style in a film that reflects on earlier work.

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At only 25, Canadian directorial prodigious Xavier Dolan has already been in the film circuit for a few years. With five feature films, all of them having made the detour to Cannes’ famous Film Festival, the director is recognizable in terms of cinematographic style, each time creating universes in-between autobiography and pure fiction, intensely rooted in the 90s aesthetic without ever making the fault into to even borderline on hipster artistic nonsense. Mommy not only reflects Dolan’s usual signature, it naturally stands out of Dolan’s cinematography as a work showing a maturity that director – auteurs – restlessly try to reach film after film; almost effortlessly, Mommy naturally reaches it frame after frame, creating a trance of claustrophobic images for its characters to develop in and the audience to absorb.

Mommy is all about Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), 16 year old, hyper-violent and suffering from ADHD, and his relationship with his mother, Diaine ‘Die’ Després (Anne Dorval), who decide to regain parental status in her son’s life by taking him out of the juvenile institution he’s in. It’s really important that Steve continues his education, but the homeschool situation quickly goes out of hand for Die. That’s where Kyla (Suzanne Clément), the shy stammering neighbour, comes in. Previously a teacher in a school, she accepts to teach Steve, whilst slowly becoming Die’s only friend.

The film follows the ups and lows of the trio and the evolution of their relationships without stumbling once, reaffirming Dolan’s delicate capacity of depicting feelings and developing strong characters. As it is the case in each of his film, there is a mesmerizing dance scene where the music takes over and ineffable problems just fade away, just for the time of that song. In Mommy, Céline Dion’s ‘On ne change pas’ offers the characters this space of expression the time of a drunk evening in Die’s kitchen.

You can’t talk about Mommy without mentioning  I Killed My Mother (2009), Dolan’s very first feature. The two films echo one-another in a thoroughly thoughtful manner which adds meaning to the later feature. In the director’s first feature, Anne Dorval’s character poignantly tells her angry teenager son that she would die had she to lost him. Without revealing too much of the plot or spoiling the end of Mommy, it is as if every frame strongly echo that brutally honest statement of a mother that loves her son despite difficulties, and here lies both the maturity and strength of the film. Undoubtedly, the film does deserve the four-minute standing ovation at Cannes last year, so it does its Jury Prize from the festival.

Mommy (2014), directed by Xavier Dolan, is released in UK cinemas by Metrodome, Certificate 15. 

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Ex-Film Editor and future ex-MA student, dissecting films since 2006.

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