Or in English, I Killed My Mother.
Earlier this year I watched Mommy and was very impressed, particularly with the direction. I was very surprised to learn the director, Xavier Dolan, was 25 years old and had already made 4 other films. I wanted to investigate his previous efforts in compare/contrast mode to see if he had always possessed this level of talent. Short answer – yes.
About the title, no one actually kills mom, it more of a figurative title, a mental blocking out. Like his most recent effort, Mommy, this film focuses on a strained mother-son relationship. Its branded as auto-biographical on IMDB, which makes sense, Dolan is writing, producing and in this case, acting, on what he knows.
The main theme materializes through very metered waves of mother-son conflict, followed by a flashback sequence of happier times, followed by a mother-son reconciliation, however ephemeral. There are a number of subplots including the son developing his first gay relationship, which are delivered convincingly, add character depth and are necessary backdrop for the persistent love-hate tension.
My more particular friends panned this film for a naive perspective on growing pains that, to some degree, we all experience. I had a different opinion, not surprisingly. To me, Dolan was trying to convey his experiences from his perspective at that time, not a retrospective from some point later in time. You would expect a teenager to have a more naive viewpoint and that comes across beautifully; the naivety feeding a series of emotionally charged decisions which play out with a predictable cadence from an adult perspective.
I liked Mommy more from cinematography and screen-play aspects; more sophisticated in both, however for Dolan’s first film, made when he was barely 20 years old, this is an amazing accomplishment.
The acting is good. I’m not sure if we can call Dolan’s performance acting, since this is a story about him, however he carries off the character’s emotional volatility combined with a tortured self-reflection, believably. Anne Dorval, who also anchored the later Mommy, was completely unrecognizable both in appearance and personality. Going from a free-wheeling hippie mom in Mommy to a buttoned-up suburban introvert in this film, very convincingly. I did not know it was Dorval in the role until I read the credits.
So far Dolan’s film making – writing, directing and acting – is impressive for any age but he is still in his 20’s. I’ll definitely keep watch over his future efforts, I just hope he doesn’t become unnecessarily branded as the dude who creates tense mom-son relationship films.