Cannes Film Festival: It’s Only the End of the World (Juste La Fin Du Monde)

In Competition
Juste La Fin Du Monde (It’s Only the End of the World)
Directed by Xavier Dolan
Starring Nathalie Baye, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux and Gaspard Ulliel

by Joanna Orland

Xavier Dolan is a prodigy at age 27, with a more prolific directorial career than most seasoned filmmakers.  His latest film Juste La Fin Du Monde sees the director team up with his most famous cast to date, leaving behind the Quebecois talent pool for a selection of what can undeniably be considered France’s most renowned actors.  The well-known cast collectively play a highly dysfunctional family whose prodigal son Louis (Ulliel) returns home after an absence of twelve years.  Louis plans on announcing his upcoming death to his family, but as the dysfunction unravels, so do his plans.

Based on the play Juste la fin du monde by Jean-Luc Lagarce, Dolan’s film adaptation reads as though it is being performed on a stage, exaggeratedly so that even the uninformed audience would suspect it was originally written to be so.  The story unfolds with whiny melodrama as the actors whinge away at each other, arguing constantly with no resolve, set to the overdramatic musical underscore, never giving the narrative room to breathe or the characters time to develop into something more than caricatures.  Louis has very little to say in this film as his role is as the pensive sounding board to his family’s aggressions.  His mother Martine (Baye) is ecstatic to have her favourite son return, his sister-in-law Catherine (Cotillard) is excited to finally meet the infamous Louis, his young sister Suzanne (Seydoux) idolizes her brother albeit through the resentment she holds over him abandoning her, and his older brother Antoine (Cassel) is the closed off hotheaded patriarch who single-handedly fuels most of this family fire.

The performances are rather subdued considering the weightiness of the cast, and it somehow feels as though these famous French actors were jumping on board the Dolan bandwagon, grasping at a chance to work with the director rather than waiting for a role to suit them.  Cotillard’s talent is wasted while Seydoux and Cassel have the meatier parts, albeit there isn’t much on the bone in the first place.  The story is thin, the characters deplorable, with very few redeeming qualities to justify translating this theatrical production to the big screen.  But, as it’s been translated by the magnificent Xavier Dolan, in spite of the aforementioned flaws there is still much which has been redeemed through his directorial ingenuity.

Dolan’s signature music video style montages save this film from itself.  As the dialogue and melodrama weigh it down, Dolan beautifully lightens the tone through musical curation and stunning imagery adding poetry to a script completely devoid of it.  With Juste La Fin Du Monde Dolan proves he can salvage anything with his gifted touch, although I’m not quite sure this one is worth his efforts.


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