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Mommy: fresh & inspiring cinema

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26 year old Canadian director Xavier Dolan has done it again. His latest title is his most complete work so far, touching new territories and making its way deep in the hearts of emotional audiences.

Appart from the natural evolution due to growing up and practicing more, Mommy feels like a sum of Dolan's leitmotivs in all areas: theme, style and actors. So let's clarify your picture a bit. Maybe you've heard people talk about Dolan or Mommy, maybe you haven't. In terms of buzz, it received the Jury Prize in Cannes Film Festival last year, but there's nothing unusual about that since Xavier is Cannes' sweetheart and most of his films were in Cannes. It almost made it to the Best Foreign Film list of nominees for the Academy Awards, but this kind of attention is not what makes it a lovable movie.

Mommy tells the story of a disrupted family composed of the mom, Diane - Anne Dorval, Dolan's obsession-actress who has all it takes to stir this kind of passion in a director; she simply delivers each and every time - and the son, Steve - 17 year old Antoine-Olivier Pilon, an interesting and very fresh newcomer in Dolan's universe.

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The father passed away in the near past and his disappearance is part of the reason causing Steve's ADHD repetitive crises. He's been in and out of correction schools but he is kicked out as he represents a life threatening danger and they can't handle him anymore. He's lucky to still be a teenager. Otherwise, his place would be in a psychiatric institution or in a prison. However, his mother does what any mother would do. Takes him back home and tries to lead a normal life with unpredictable Steve. His behavior is fully bipolar, going from a state of bliss and charming positiveness with just a hint of crazy, to a state of black rage involving physical and verbal violence.

Since Diane loses her job and, considering her lack of superior education, a new decent one is close to impossible to get, she decides to homeschool Steve. Sending him to a normal school might not work anyway due to his chronic impulsiveness. So because she doesn't know much about school in general and teaching in particular, she finds the perfect helper across the street. Their neighbor, Kyla - Suzanne Clement, who also starred in Dolan's Laurence Anyways - is a teacher who took a sabbatical year. She has some psychological troubles herself, as she barely can speak and is absentminded most of the time, especially towards her husband and young daughter. She comes to complete the messed up family portrait with her mysterious aura and dubious inner power plus a magnetic look. She manages to somehow tame Steve, making him aware of his power to hurt people and thus finding a way to better communicate with him.

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So life with Steve is not easy at all, but at times he is the funniest and most grown-up and attentive 17 year old son one could have. So this constant struggle inside of him and with him is the interesting case Dolan is analyzing. We've all had our teenage angst, some of us maybe even became violent to themselves or to the others, ending up in hospital or in a lunatics house with parents not knowing how to make it work. It's a hot topic that will never get old so Dolan found a right area of interest to attack. But from here, his ways of telling the story and showing it to a broad audience turns Mommy into a unique and highly emotional piece of cinema. It's the kind of movie most of you will not feel the need to discuss afterwards. The overall impression is that Dolan makes the movies many of us would make if they had the film skills. Movies like the ones we imagine when we're caught up in real life situations and say to ourselves - "this would make a great movie sequence".

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Of course there's a particular style added to this genuineness, which makes Dolan a very young and increasingly talented auteur, who is well grounded in his era and makes good use of all the 'props' of today. For example, he uses the Instagram square format for a feature film - call him a hipster but it's something new and it's actually working. Why not destroy boundaries when it comes to cinema? Nothing is holly when it comes to art and this square format has a very well-made point - it shrinks the shot, taking the audience one step closer to the characters they watch on a big cinema screen. It isolates the actors and at the same time gives them space to closely unwind the stories of their characters. It also works like a cage, imposing a sort of confinement that doubles the heartfelt situations Steve, Diane and Kyla go through. Also, using it once again by Dolan himself or any other director might be superfluous so this feels like a successful experiment which makes Mommy a meta-movie, introducing a new dimension: form as part of the story. The rest fits the director's profile so far: the pop well-known hits (including Lana del Ray, Dido, Eiffel 65, Celine Dion and Oasis), the slow motion dreamy shots, the well thought-out outfits (chosen by Dolan himself), the poetic close-ups and detailed shots etc.

To conclude with, it might prove to be a tearful experience or just an honest and beautiful piece of cinema, however, I'm sure it won't bore you to death and you'll get a strong dose of brand new cinema from it.

Tags:   review, trailer, Cannes, film review, Xavier Dolan, Mommy, Anne Dorval, Antoine Olivier Pilon, Suzanne Clement

Related:   Tom at the Farm, Heartbeats (Les amours imaginaires), I Killed My Mother (J'ai tué ma mère), Laurence Anyways, Mommy


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