It’s Only The End of the World is Xavier Dolan’s follow up to his triumphant 2014 film, Mommy. The film itself came together after meeting with the likes of Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel while in France, looking for a project with which to work with them. He returned home and picked up a play that had been given to him years before, one he rejected. With these performers in mind, eschewing his regular troupe of Quebecois stalwarts, Dolan took Jean-Luc Lagarce’s play to heart and translated it for the screen, with shooting beginning the day after flying back from his jury duty at Cannes 2015.
The story is one of familial tension and hushed secrets, where things are meant to be hidden from those closest to you. Stylistically Dolan uses the camera to make this discomfort overt, making extreme close-ups a showcase for the range of rage that’s exhibited throughout. Reuniting with André Turpin, the Oscar nominated filmmaker who also shot such classics as Villeneuve’s Incendies, it’s a bold, and certainly affected move that’s sure to be succor for some and obnoxious to others, a yin/yang between praise and scorn that’s characterized much of Dolan’s career.
While the performances are raw and carried out by masters of their craft, the story feels unfortunately dated, where notions of guilt, shame and secrecy simply don’t have the same frisson that they would have held in the early 1990s when the play was written. Changing the setting, perhaps to a culture where such circumstances are more closely aligned with familial shame and death, might make for a more poignant tale. As it stands it serves as a time capsule of sorts, perhaps reminding some about how foreign such reactions now feel that, for the most part, these previously outré behaviours have now been to a large extent normalized, and what once was a plague is still a serious but not always terminal disease. It’s a privilege of being in the west that such circumstances no longer lead one to feel such news would in fact be “The End of the World”, but this metatextual fact shouldn’t dissuade those from tackling another challenging, provocative film from this enormously talented writer/director.
Sunday September 11, 9:15pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 9:30pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 9:45pm @TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Sunday September 18, 9:30pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2