Laurence Anyways: A Review
The Cannes Film Festival is in full swing these days on the French Riviera. For the occasion, the German-French TV channel Arte circulates some great recent and less recent films from all over the world. Xavier Dolan, the young Canadian director whose latest movie Mommy largely stood out at last year’s festival is now part of the jury for this year. Perhaps that is why one of his films has been chosen by Arte to be brought to the screen and allow the viewers to enlarge their knowledge of Dolan’s cinema.
The film in question is Laurence Anyways, his third realization (2012), a drama dealing with a couple in a complete shift and lost in wonderings about genre and sexual identity. The story sets Laurence (Melvil Poupaud), and Fred (Suzanne Clément), a man and a woman who love each other and live together in Montréal, Quebec.
If the first names are supposed to be suited for both genders in Canada, this is not the case everywhere. In France, Laurence would stand much more for a girl, as well as Fred would be a man’s nickname. Everything goes fine for a couple of years until Laurence finally admits that he does not feel himself in a man’s skin, and that he always felt he was a woman.
And that is the starting point of the movie; the transformation of a man into a woman, but more than anything, of the couple itself. Fred, after having been broken down by the news, eventually decides to help her man achieve his transformation. But as it is an incredibly tough adventure for each member of the couple, they never really manage to fulfil each other’s desires without forgetting what they want themselves.
The relationship suddenly deteriorates and the couple explodes, until one of the two comes back to the other, and so on for a decade. In this sense, Laurence Anyways is not a film about transgender and transsexuality itself but is more focused on love and how far one can go for his/her alter ego.
We could reproach Dolan the length of this motion picture, where the two protagonists’ troubles and existential questions last for almost 2 hours and 50 minutes. I personally found that a little too long, allowing time for too many things to happen and therefore losing the viewer in the story at some points. If we understand that the purpose is to show the evolution of a relationship, we get a little confused by the rest that happens on the side. This risks putting the storyline at a disadvantage because we wonder what exactly the director wanted to focus on.
As for the visuals, we can recognize again the film maker’s touch with an extremely stylized image, taking the codes of musical clips and advertising to readapt them on the big screen. Cinema and literary references are to be found everywhere; we feel that everything wants to be perfectly mastered, yet that doesn’t affect the film as it is simply his style. If it is indeed very original and surprising at first, it is in a good way.
In short, this third film from Xavier Dolan is another very nice achievement, always faithful to his beloved themes – relationships in a couple or within the family, sexuality, genre – and a good example visually of his promising cinema.