Feisty widowed single mother Diane (Anna Dorval) finds herself burdened with the full-time custody of her rambunctious 15-year-old ADHD son Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon). As they try to make ends meet and struggle with their unpredictable ménage, Kyla (Suzanne Clément), the peculiar, new girl across the street, offers her help. Together they find a new sense of balance, and hope is regained.
Review by Louise Keller:
The pain of unconditional maternal love is the theme of this emotionally tumultuous drama in which a mother deals with the harsh reality of daily life dealing with her disturbed teenage son. It's a heartbreaking film that leads us to the edge, but along the way, there is humour, hope and a compelling raw energy that bonds and divides mother and son.
Winner of the 2014 Cannes Jury Prize, director Xavier Dolan has drawn thematic parallels between this and his Director's Fortnight-winning 2009 debut film I Killed My Mother. This time around, it is the mother's not the teenager's angst that is canvassed; the film's powerful emotional journey concentrating on the impenetrable bond between mother and child. Anna Dorval and Suzanne Clement (who also appeared in the earlier film) deliver superlative, potent performances as the rambunctious mother and the troubled neighbor, who inextricably becomes involved in the shifting dynamic.
Loving people doesn't save them, we hear, but it is clear throughout the 139 minute running time, that there is no shortage of love between mother and son. In the early scenes, the film establishes the backstory and the disastrous end to the boarding school cum detention centre where Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon) has recently spent some time, when his distraught mother clearly could no longer cope. He is destructive, abusive, violent and out of control. Pilon is a chameleon, able to turn from angelic to diabolical in a split second. Diane (Dorval), with her brash manner and foul mouth, is not your average mother - watching her and Steve scream abuse at each other, is terrifying. The introduction of Kyla (Clement), the speech-impaired neighbor who is taking a sabbatical from teaching, brings a welcome shift to the increasingly volatile relationship between Diane and Steve. Suddenly there is a positive focus for both Steve and Kyla.
Dolan delights in bringing his audience close to his subject matter by concentrating on close-ups, with tight shots of faces, hands, legs and feet. He plays with the aspect ratio and the use of 1:1 frame is particularly intimate. Our focus immediately shrinks to the action at the centre of the screen. There are sharp mood swings - like the unbridled joy of a surprise celebration, contrasted by the scene when the three characters leave a supermarket later in dire circumstances. There are many scenes that are emotionally intense and the power from the final exchange between Diane and Kyla lies in what is NOT expressed. It is worth noting that the French spoken is so broad that it is almost impossible to understand it - a little like the emotions at play.
This is not an easy film to watch. It is bruising, unforgiving and haunting. But brilliant in its emotional portrayal.
VIC: Cinema Nova
NSW: Dendy Opera Quays, Dendy Newtown, Palace Verona
ACT: Palace Electric
QLD: Palace Centro
SA: Palace Nova Eastend
TAS: MONA Museum of Old and New Art
WA: Perth International Film Festival 6 - 12 April
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CAST: Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Suzanne Clement, Patrick Huard, Alexandre Goyette
PRODUCER: Xavier Dolan, Nancy Grant
DIRECTOR: Xavier Dolan
SCRIPT: Xavier Dolan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: André Turpin
EDITOR: Xavier Dolan
OTHER: Costumes by Xavier Dolan
RUNNING TIME: 139 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 9, 2015