Mommy: A Review
“Few [films] changed my life in the way that The Piano did.” Those were the words of the 25 year-old Canadian director Xavier Dolan in honor to Jane Campion, during his speech at the Cannes Film Festival last year. And one could assert that this could also be said for the film he was presenting and that won the Jury Prize, Mommy.
This 5th film from the young director thrilled the critics from its release and we can understand why: the concentration of tension and emotion feels like a bomb which we are afraid will explode at any time.
Diane Després (Anne Dorval) is asked to take care of her son Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon), who has ADHD and is a violent teenager, even burning the cafeteria of the institutionalization in which he was placed. Diane, recently widowed and raising Steve alone, will be helped by her neighbor Kyla (Suzanne Clément) with whom the family will try to build a new hope and harmony together.
The film is firstly a visual wonder; Xavier Dolan plays with the images, the colours, and the lighting. From the beginning, we are blown away by such aesthetics. Yet it is done without putting the acting roles at a disadvantage that could appear rigid if the image is too polished. But that does not happen. The framing is also very particular and typical of the director: during most of the film, the characters are shown in a square 1:1 aspect ratio, reminding us of our old childhood Polaroid, but particularly giving the impression that they are trapped and locked up in the frame, impeaching any form of hope whatsoever. Nevertheless, this way of shooting can also give access to a tricky yet brilliant idea halfway through the film.
Dolan is obsessed with feminine roles and especially the figure of the mother and shows it once again, better than ever, in Mommy. Anne Dorval is extraordinary in this role; in Quebec, Canada, her character nicknamed Die, with her very strong accent –being myself a French native speaker, I had to read the English subtitles to understand the dialogue- tries everything she can to build a new relationship with her hyperactive son. The film alternates with glimpses of hope and moments of extreme violence and despondency, with no rest at all for the viewer. But that is why it is so powerful and interesting to watch. We feel compassion, we feel sympathy, have tears in our eyes, are impressed, but we also smile, laugh, hope with the protagonists, feel happy and free in some moments. We end up nailed to the spot, completely perturbed and stunned, but very pleased with the experience.