Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy” is an emotional ticking bomb, an exhilarating and heart-wrecking experience, which invokes a knockout range of feelings. Despite balancing on the edge of falling into a slop in many scenes and concepts, Dolan walks on this thin line with an admirable lightness and charm. Supported by extremely talented duo in the leading roles – Anne Dorval and Antoine-Olivier Pilon, “Mommy” ends up being an absolutely stunning film.
Diane’s son, Steve, comes back home, after time spent in a youth facility – he’s very aggressive and insubordinate, requiring a lot of attention and care. Apart from that, Diane is also facing financial issues, due to changes at her workplace. The rigid situation of the two finds its ray of hope, when a mysterious neighbor – Kyla – helps Steve after one of the arguments at Diane’s home and becomes close to both mother and her son. Later on, her existence becomes crucial for rebuilding their relationship.
Steve’s character is a contrast on its own. Even though his behavior causes collateral damage everywhere he appears, the bond linking him with his mother is unbelievably strong and resistant. Dolan proves, that the distinction between black and white in life is blurry at least, there is always a point halfway – hatred, which leads to love, lack of understanding which pushes Steve to seek for it and finally inevitable end, which neither Steve nor Diane want to accept. This constant game of hard choices and emotional ups and downs is paralazing on one hand and fascinating on the other. The unique relationship between mother and her son is portrayed in Dolan’s film in a very specific way – albeit it’s distressingly pathological and full of unease, sometimes impossible to understand, sometimes too cruel to observe it – it still constitutes a beautiful, moving image.
Very occasionally does a movie create such a breathtaking emotional landscape, bringing out so much happiness in one scene to demolish the audience in the next one as “Mommy” does. Dolan’s way of expressing his emotions through images is incredibly passionate, yet surprisingly raw. It’s raw in the most down-to-earth terms, without redundant, grandiloquent concepts and mannerism – “Mommy” is exceptional, because its devastatingly truthful and veritable. Dolan admitted in some of the interview, that “Mommy” is at least partially a film about himself. Therefore, “Mommy” seems like a poem written by an exceptionally talented, yet troubled man.
“Mommy” is also incredibly and faboulously directed – just take good look at “Wonderwall” scene and the brilliant use of aspect ratio, its use as a metaphor of freedom and “breathing space”. Dolan cherishes the details in his feature, playing with lots of sunrays and shadows, imaginative angles of camera shots, intelligent dialogues etc. He cares about each scene and thinks about it, there is no mayhem in this composition. Although some of the scenes are too prolonged (especially the “music video” concept ones), but all of it is a drop in the ocean, which does not influence the overall impression of “Mommy” – it is a very mature insight into an intimate relation and confines we all live within. Apart from that, the director was given a tremendous cast – Antoine-Olivier Pilon is mezmerizing and perfectly matches Anne Dorval, whilst on top of that is Suzanne Clement and her emotionally tattered Kyla.
Dolan’s poetry is not flawless. It’s still a bit naive at some point, but this sentimental romanticism is the factor, which drives his vision. “Mommy” is a game of real emotions, real problems and real happiness, all packed in a dazzling cinematography and intelligent use of pop-culture symbols, like tracks by Celine Dion or Eiffel 65. No doubts, that any other director would be razed to the ground, if caught using so much novelettish concepts, but Dolan is unique. I’m dying to know what can we expect from him in the coming years and hope, that the rumors about his withdrawal from film industry are only unreliable gossips. That would be a truly irretrievable loss.
UMP Grade: 47.5/50
(Cinematography: 10, Plot: 9, Acting: 9.5, Soundtrack: 9, Quaintness: 10)