Although it’s quite good has been garnering considerable acclaim since its debut at Cannes earlier this year, Mommy might be Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s most over thought film to date.
In a fictional 2015 where it has become legal for parents facing hardship to place difficult, unruly, or developmentally challenged kids into public institutions, Die (Anne Dorval), a trashy, unfit mother still trying to live out her adolescence, is forced into taking back her teenage son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) after an incident in a group home that left someone severely injured and nearly sent him to adult prison. The two of them find help and solace in Kyla (Suzanne Clément), a shy, stuttering neighbour who wants to be Steve’s tutor.
Utilizing an obscure aspect ratio designed to make every shot look like a photograph, Dolan certainly knows how to compose a striking image in limited space. He also gets emotionally convincing performances from his leads, with Dorvall becoming just white trashy enough to not be a caricature, Pilon acting just odious enough to maintain some sympathy, and Clément stealing the show as the almost helpless outsider.
While the film certainly isn’t predictable, there’s a very logical and satisfying ending to the film after 110 minutes or so. The film drags itself out to 138 minutes without really adding anything special. That added time certainly isn’t uninteresting, but it feels less vital than everything that came before it, like a point being belaboured after it has been made wonderfully. It’s like getting punched in the gut and having someone sit with you for 30 minutes to make sure you’re okay. In that respect, Dolan hits the virtues of parenting spot on. That sense of guilt might be part of the point. I do need to watch it again. (Andrew Parker)
Tuesday, September 9th, 9:30pm, Princess of Wales
Wednesday, September 10th, 12:00pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1