Saturday, June 6, 2015
Written, Directed & Edited By: Xavier Dolan
Cinematography By: Andre Turpin
Cast: Annie Dorval, Suzanne Clement, Antoine-Oliver Pilon, Patrick Huard
Forty-six year old Diane Després - "Die" - has been widowed for three years. Considered white trash by many, Die does whatever she needs, including strutting her body in front of male employers who will look, to make an honest living. That bread-winning ability is affected when she makes the decision to remove her only offspring, fifteen year old Steve Després, from her previously imposed institutionalization, one step below juvenile detention. She institutionalized him shortly following her husband's death due to Steve's attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and his violent outbursts. He was just kicked out of the latest in a long line of facilities for setting fire to the cafeteria, in turn injuring another boy. She made this decision to deinstitutionalize him as she didn't like the alternative, sending him into more restrictive juvenile detention from which he would probably never be rehabilitated. However, with this deinstitutionalization, she has to take care of him which means only being able to do home based work. Despite they always yelling expletives at each other and Steve sometimes demonstrating those violent tendencies toward her, Die and Steve truly do love each other, his emotions which are sometimes manifested as an Oedipus complex especially as he seems to need her complete attention most specifically when it is being directed at possible male suitors. Their lives, both individually and as a family, are affected with the entrance of two of their neighbors. The first is Paul, a lawyer, who does have that sexual interest in Die as he tries to help Steve through his legal problems. The second and more important is Kyla, who lives across the street with her husband Patrick and their adolescent daughter, they who are in transit in their life to wherever Patrick's job will take them. Kyla is a high school teacher on sabbatical as she deals with her own emotional issues, which are manifested in stuttering whenever she feels incapable of dealing with her life. Kyla may find that she needs the Després as much as they need her.
The film is presented in an unheard-of 1:1 aspect ratio; the "viewing area" of the screen is a perfect square. So that every shot looks like it was filmed for Instagram, but strangely it works as you barely notice it after awhile and allows you to become more intimate with the characters and film. While it also makes every shot illuminating as it is liken series of portraits. Xavier Dolan said that the unusual aspect for the film is because he wanted to amplify the emotions from the characters.
The film is captivating as Antoine-Olivier Pilan who plays her son is so explosive with rage and hate at a moments notice. I was scared of him most of the film as well as scared for any of the main characters around him. As he loves his mother but she is not sacred and can easily be under attack once his temper is released.
It is to the films strength, as well as the actors that you can see why they love and care about him despite his monstrous anger. While it showcases some tense moments of suspense. These scenes also illuminate why he is not a total monster. Why we should care not only about his mother and caretaker, but him and his well being.
It truly shows the bond between a bit and his mother. How no matter how bad and damaged your child is and how the world not seem to have given up and hate him. As a parent you never do no matter what's you see the good in them and hope for the best. As that is ultimately what you want for your child.
It is interesting how they parallel the mother child relationship with the neighbor who has a stutter and repressed anger issues and how she seems to care so much for this boy and his mother, by can't seem to have much emotion or care when it comes to her child or even her husband. Though there is so much going on there left unsaid. You get hints and clues about the situation without it being spelled out. Which is why This film with such intimate details trusts the audience to use it's intuitions time to time. To figure things out, advance the story and have insight into characters and situations.
The film also shows not only the pressure but also the hardships emotional, physical and financial of dealing with him.
There are many scenes of singular beauty showing simple acts of fun or day to day life in slow motion with a glorious soundtrack playing that really. Illustrate the beauty of everything coming together and having and sharing a moment with the character.
Though the cast is amazing in the depths they reach emotionally, For me Suzanne Clement is the stand out, as having seen her in Xavier Dolan’s Previous films. She manages to surprise by playing such remarkably different characters and is almost unrecognizable in them physically from one role to the next.
Though some scenes might seem slow and indulgent. They are needed as they provide little details that would seem too melodramatic of spelled out or told directly. The film manages to keep surprising and pack an emotional punch at many times.
I am quite frankly shocked at how strong this film is and how much it affected me. I am sure it will do the same with most audiences.
I have only seen two Xavier Dolan film before HEARTBEATS and LAURENCE ANYWAYS, I fell in love with the film. He has a lyrical and poetic way of orchestrating characters and stories. This one is more deep then that one. He still manages to affect the audience in a similar manner. Even if the characters aren't necessarily charming themselves the film and camera work are. It's like the film is a representation of a flirt. With all the feelings that brings with it. Mostly titilation. That makes you never want to leave the film or it's characters. It makes me want to watch more of his films. Though they are mighty in length and emotions. They might be worth the time spent with them. He is a noticeable new voice not only in Canadian cinema, but also cinema in general.
It has sensitive filmmaking that has it's beautiful flourishes but isn't afraid to pack a punch and remind you this isn't some beautiful fairy tale. This takes place in reality.
The film has to be seen to really be believed and experience the strength of it's seduction.
Now while I hate one scene meant to illustrate his temper by using a racial epithet. That disturbs me but I understand why it is there. It just always seems the movies I love all use that word disparingly and it disturbs me, but I want condemn the film or the filmmaker. It just bothers me that all these films need a scene like that especially when it comes to insulting African- Americans. As a way to show the character is arguable or hateful. There are other ways. I am not trying to censor these films or filmmakers just give them something to consider, but now it probably sounds like, when heavily religious people go to blockbusters and complain about the language or excess of violence or nudity, but I feel like if you do your research you know that is coming. Most of the films I notice racial language in, it comes as a surprise of course seeing films like SELMA, THE HELP or 12 YEARS A SLAVE it is expected.
I think it all boils down to how you feel about her son. Whether you truly believe there is some decency to him and he just has control issues yet can be a member of society. Or if you just think he is a problem that will never be solved and belongs caged. Watching the film I found myself ping-ponging between big sides. As most of the time I couldn't stand him, but then the film would choose to stand by him by showing his point of view it shine him In a light of doing ordinary things that would be a breakthrough for him. So it feels a bit like the film is forcing us to consider and like him. Though then again I believe we are supposed to feel like the mother at times scared by him, but caring about him nonetheless and seeing some good parts to him.