I watch about 100 films a year; about 10 of those are really good in some ways, only 2 or 3 are excellent across board. Mommy is one of the latter. All comments about film are a matter of personal taste but for me an excellent film starts with a good script telling a compelling story. It successfully executes with a director who can utilize all the tools available to express that story such that it resonate strongly with an audience. They should talk about it, think about it and probably see it again.
Writer and producer Xavier Dolan has done that with this story of a well-meaning single mother trying her best to raise a son with AHDH who is prone to violent outbursts. A mysterious, stuttering neighbor unwittingly enters their lives creating a balance, each filling a void for the other. While the story occasionally drifts off into melodramatic moments, those moments are both situationally believable and necessary for the film take you by the arm and persuade you to follow these odd but ultimately relatable characters.
Dolan obviously took a step back from this story to consider how best to communicate the emotional components. The most obvious is the aspect ratio, a simply unheard of 1:1. I can’t say what Dolan was thinking with this but for me it had the effect of focusing intensely on the actors facial expressions rather than the props around them. Choices in color, hue, soundtrack and even the choreography of son’s skateboard moves pair so well with unfolding emotions, you really don’t need to read the subtitles. Dolan has a knack for understanding and communicating human behaviour.
The 1:1 aspect ratio put more focus and pressure on acting. All three of the leads were outstanding. Anne Dorval in particular, while looking like a reject from an Absolutely Fabulous casting call, gives an award-winning performance as the road-weary mother, ever hopeful in the midst of increasingly trying situations with her son.
Despite a few mom-son moments crossing the creepy line, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this indie film. What surprised me more than anything was that the director, Dolan, is 25 years old. It also surprised me that hes made 4 other films. I’ll be checking those out to see if he’s always had this level of talent.
Highly recommended for just about anyone.