Mommy

mommy-001
Directed by Xavier Dolan

Starring Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon and Suzanne Clément
In US Cinemas January 23rd, 2015 (Limited)

by Joanna Orland

For the young age of 25, Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan has a masterful repertoire of films that could take other directors a lifetime to create.  With five films in as many years, Dolan is finally garnering the critical acclaim he has always deserved with his latest masterpiece Mommy.  A writer, editor, costume designer and star of many of his films, Dolan is the true definition of auteur.  Out of his many talents, he is most renowned for his distinct directing style for which Mommy won him the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Mommy is Dolan’s most substantial film to date and has his signature tone of dreamlike visuals set to a pop-filled soundtrack, melding to create an almost ethereal experience.  As Dolan comes from a music video directorial background, it makes perfect sense that his movies have a stylization to them that is strongly driven by music. The song choices that Dolan uses in his films are amongst the first elements he decides upon when making a movie.  He’s so inspired by song, that he has even written entire film scripts based on songs he’s heard on the radio.

Mommy: Xavier Dolan

“A movie might originate from a song. It might be the real origin of a film, solely. I wrote one script, a story that I was entirely inspired by hearing Calvin Harris I Feel So Close To You. I heard that on the radio and I was like, ‘Oh that song!’ and I wrote an entire movie”, explains Dolan.

With dark subject matter at its core, Mommy is still a joyous experience with its classic pop music from the likes of Oasis and Celine Dion, and its use of humour including the nod to Antoine-Olivier Pilon’s resemblance to a certain former child star.  The substance in Mommy comes from the relationship between its three central characters – mommy Diane (Dorval), son Steve (Pilon) and friend Kyla (Clément).  The performances from the three actors are outstanding.  All having worked with Dolan previously, they seem to have a symbiotic relationship with the director allowing them to embody his vision to perfection.

The story, soundtrack, visuals and performances are all stunning, but it is Dolan’s directing that defines this film as a masterpiece.  Dolan has chosen a very risky tactic in order to depict the claustrophobia and anxiety that the characters are struggling with.  Dolan has filmed most of Mommy in 1:1 aspect ratio, meaning much of the screen is rendered black with the picture centred in a square dimension.  This works to great effect, especially during one of the most liberating and exhilarating scenes later in the film.  Never before have I seen the aspect ratio of a film mirror the characters’ moods.  While some may find it a distraction or a frustration, it works gloriously in creating empathy in a completely unique, exciting and fresh way.

Mommy looks to be Canada’s entry for the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film category.  If this doesn’t win Dolan the award he so deserves, at least it will gain him international recognition as an accomplished and masterful filmmaker.

Mommy: Xavier Dolan Director Xavier Dolan

Mommy: Nancy GrantProducer Nancy Grant

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