Elephant Song

Directed by Charles Biname

Starring Xavier Dolan, Bruce Greenwood, Catherine Keener and Carrie Anne-Moss
Available On Demand in UK July 13th, 2015

by Laura Patricia Jones

1960’s mental institution thrillers never fail to leave us with a slight chill.  Elephant Song is very much a suspense drama cut from the same cloth as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, but unlike Milos Forman’s classic, not one that translates well from stage to screen.

Based on Nicolas Billon’s stage play, Elephant Song is the story of a troubled young man named Michael, entrapped by the rejection of his past. An eminent psychiatrist disappears unexpectedly and Michael is the last person to see him. The hospital director, Dr. Green, is called in to interview Michael. Miss Peterson, the head nurse, understands all too well the devastating loss that still haunts Dr. Green and warns him to steer clear of this particular patient – to no avail. Michael prattles on about elephants and opera (with the occasional hint of murder and foul play) and lures the hospital director into a devious trap.

The story itself sets precedent for a great plot, but unfortunately Charles Biname’s adaptation to the screen leaves it what can only be described as ‘stagebound.’ The twists and turns of Dr. Green’s mysterious past and own testing relationships with the women in his life are enough to keep you intrigued, but the end result is a little hollow and anti-climactic. The film’s only saving grace is the individual performances that showcases that each actor can raise a decent eyebrow here and there. Xavier Dolan gives a strong performance as Michael, demonstrating an impressive range of emotion and depth that’s just about enough to border on creepy and leave you feeling uncomfortable throughout (you may also be left disturbed for some time after witnessing acts of implied fellatio to a stuffed elephant and it’s erm ‘trunk’).

But even this isn’t enough to save this failed experiment. The ending is wishy-washy and you come out of it feeling a little lost by the two hours you have just spent trying to work it all out. However, if it’s a Dolan fix you’re after, even as a nutter Xavier still retains that charm enough that we can forgive him for partaking in this catastrophe… well just about.

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