There is no middle way when it comes to québécois director Xavier Dolan.
You can take it or you can leave it, but you can't simply stay there uncertain, hesitant.
Uncertainty is not something contemplated in Dolan's world.
The guy is self-confident enough to have his ideas, his stories to tell, his way of telling them, and the guts to cry them aloud (and clear). So I prevent you: if you're not in the mood for strong, emotional and stylish stories, stay away from Dolan's cinema.
Zazie is, as everybody knows, an inconditionnelle of this fella, since the very beginning.
The other night, at the UGC Les Halles, Zazie was lucky enough to see the avant-première of his last work to date, Mommy, Prix du Jury at the last Cannes Film Festival (and out in French cinemas on October 8). Le bonheur était dans le pré...
Montreal, 2015. Steve is a 15 years old guy suffering of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). When he sets on fire part of the school he has been putting in as a difficult kid, the institution decides to get rid of him. Too dangerous. The only option left is to get back to his mum, Diane "Die" Duprès, a pretty unconventional mother. She's a widow, she has recently lost his job, and the idea of having back her volcanic child is not exactly what she has in mind. When she realizes that in front of her house lives Kyla, a young teacher who's not working for some unspecified problems, she asks her for some help in taking care of Steve. Life with the guy is a true roller-coster: the passage from joy to desperation, from calm to storm, is easily overstepped. The three will have their good and bad moments, until the time comes for the inevitable big decisions.
As always in Dolan's movie, what strikes me most is the urgency, the sense of "I-do-this-movie-or-I-die" that dominates every single fiber of the film. This is one of the finest quality a director could have. The importance of what he has to say is stronger than the fear of failing at it, of not being able to keep up with his aim. But there is no risk, with Dolan. He is always aiming high, higher than you can think of, bolder than you can imagine.
You seat there, trying to overcome your feelings, because you've just been moved to tears by a scene with a Céline Dion (!!!) song, when the guy has already prepared for you the most improbable karaoke on Bocelli's Vivo per Lei. Clearly enough, it is very hard to keep up with Dolan's imagination.
And this is exactly why I love him so much. Wonders are just behind the corner (and here, believe me, there are many wonders). And even if he is telling us the most tragic story of all, about poor, problematic, beaten by life people, he never forgets to express this in the most stylish, the most colorful, spectacular way. Because desperation doesn't need to look ugly to be deep and real.
Dolan goes back, in Mommy, to one of his favorite themes, the relationship between a mother and her teenage child, the difficulties of expressing love, of finding a way to process feelings and canalize rage, that was already at the heart of his first feature (J'ai tué ma mère, Caméra d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009). Both have many autobiographic elements, which is probably why they sound so right in their juvenile, impetuos expression, and in both movies the mother has been played by the same, incredible actress, Anne Dorval. At her side, as Kyla, another constant and luminous presence of Dolan's cinema, Suzanne Clément. Their performances are so outstanding that it is hard to find the right words to describe them. In the role of Steve, the super talented and super young Antoine-Olivier Pilon, who already worked with Dolan on the controversial video for the Indochine song, College Boy. The three actors speak in a strong québécois idiom, which is unintelligible to both French and English audiences (Dolan, ça va sans dire, took also care of the subtitles translation in both languages!).
Filmed in a squared format, to stay closer to the characters and to create a sense of oppression, Mommy has the intensity and the emotional impact of the finest works of art.
In the most unforgettable moment of the movie, with a simple, almost childish gesture, Dolan teaches us that there is no limit to what we can be able to do and, consequently, to what cinema can do for us.
This is why Mommy is the most powerful and amazing movie of the year.
Skeptics about Dolan, you'll be proven wrong. I swear.