MOMMY sees the return and continuing arc from prodigy to maestro from French Canadian director, Xavier Dolan, who at age twenty-five currently has five successful films under his belt. No denying it and no shame in saying it, Dolan is my favourite director, I cannot get enough of his films. Complex in depth but simple in production with most films being made on a shoestring budget but with art direction and plot up there with the best. He is about two things; aesthetics and a deep social study of people in a situation. He also has some odd “mommy-issues” with a lot of his films analysing the relationship of the mother. Take his first film, and still my favourite, HOW I KILLED MY MOTHER, enough said :). He is back and not cutting any corners this time, this film is titled MOMMY, and it is sweeping the world by storm. Finally, Australia will get its post-festival cinematic debut on April 9th with thanks to Sharmill Films. It is rated MA15+ and runs for 139mins.





An incredibly strong-willed mother (Anne Dorval) lives a difficult life, she can barely make ends meet, her husband is dead and her son is in a junior mental institution. Her son, Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) has ADHD and is incapable of controlling his emotions in bad situations and has a tendency towards violence. This violent streak sees him evicted from the institution and now he has again become the sole responsibility of his mother. She takes on the challenge but it is a challenge of walking on eggshells due to the unpredictable and oft-times explosive nature of Steve. Things are declining swiftly when they make acquaintance with their neighbour Kyla (Suzanne Clément), a very shy lady with a stutter who has many of her own issues. When together this trio has a comfortable life in balance but this is as fragile as life itself and a loss of balance results in a loss of holding on to an improved reality.




The film is a work of genius and critically it is Dolan’s best work. Nominated for 39 awards (so far) and won 25 of them, including the Jury Prize at Cannes, Canada’s entry for foreign film at the Oscars and basically winning every award at the Canadian Screen Awards. And rightly so, this film is intelligent and Dolan always chooses to be as far away from a blockbuster as possible and instead makes movies about the human condition, this time again following his strongest human condition, that of motherhood. In this Die is a mother who will do anything and I mean ANYTHING to look after her troubled son, most people in the world would give up and let him go to the wayside but she has hope. The irony in this film is that she may be paddling upstream without a paddle. Steve is very troubled to the normal world, but really he is just different, ADHD is a condition that society assigns to rambunctious and somewhat troublesome youth. Most ADHD is related to out of control sugar and a condition of modern society, much like allergies, that are created by the world we have sown.

Steve’s condition went out of control when his father died and appears to have developed from a loss of balance in life and having your world smashed to pieces. Balance is key in life and Steve cannot be free when balance is destroyed. Without balance he may not have control and to some extend I don’t think he cares for control, he is a wild bird that needs a fast and hectic life and the wind on his face. It does not help he believes he needs to also be the father of the house to care for and love his mother.


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This balance of having a happy three person life is resolved with the entry of Kyla; a friend to Die, a teacher and friend, and to some extent, love interest to Steve. This balance is resolved not only for Die and Steve but also for Kyla. Her backstory is so intriguing because Dolan never explains it, a few times you know it is on the tip of her tongue, but from observation I believe she lost a child (the pictures in her room and her rage when Steve takes her necklace – something I see as a gift or memento of lost child), and with that her life balance and this caused her stutter and inability to cope with being a teacher. This is exacerbated by her husband and daughter, who are no doubt trying to move on while Kyla lives a life of depression with no escape – an escape provided by Die and Steve, as crazy as they are, it is better than where she is.

The movie deals with so many deep human conditions; loss, grief, compassion, love, mother-issues, difference, depression, hope, faith, how society deals with troubled youth, violence, desperation and among a hundred other things, motherhood. Dolan delves into these issues with the precision of a brain surgeon, he never thrusts it down your throat, never spells it out for you letter by letter, he just lets it organically evolve in itself. I love him for allowing the audience to think, I will be thinking about this movie for a long time and I look forward to seeing it again to see whether my first thoughts and impressions are indeed true, especially that ending that is a tremendously depressing conclusion (while in no way the same) that was reminiscent of the loss of hope in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM.




The movie is an actor’s ménage à trios of brilliance and skill. Watching these three amazing actors is like sitting through a symphony of emotional triumph. Anne Dorval, as Die, is sublime, better than any Oscar winner this year. In fact all three of the actors won the Canadian Screen Awards for best Actor, Actress and Supporting Actress. Dorval brings a rawness to the role, she wasn’t acting, she was Die. Antoine-Olivier Pilon was exceptional as the troubled Steve, the emotional energy required for this role reminded me of a young DiCaprio and that was not just the looks, he is stunning, but to be honest his performance is better than that of a young Leo (no one thought I would ever say that did they?). And Suzanne Clément’s Kyla was just remarkable, the internal grief and rage is a balancing act of sanity for her and when she goes over the edge she shines beyond belief. Seeing the three of them together is like watching the best performance of Streep matched with DiCaprio’s (yet to win) Oscar performance and throwing in the best friend being that of Helen Mirren – beautiful to watch.


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The world needs more movies like this – it only lost 1/2 a pop because I found the film about 10-15mins too long with an ending that bounced between hope and dire straits one too many times – I think it ended on the negative which broke my heart. Everything about the film is superbly executed and as usual has that cinematographic beauty associated with a Dolan film. His next film is his first Hollywood movie starring Chastain, Harrington, Sarandon and Bates – that is how much faith people have in him. For me he is flawless.


4 and a Half Pops



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