It might not be the end of the world, but for fans of Xavier Dolan, there are moments during his new film where he appears to be close to the end of the road. This marks the Québécois’ sixth film as director, which is no small feat for a man of only 27 years. And like his previous work, it’s another confronting drama that dissects the dynamics of family, but in broadening his scope from a singular relationship to that of an entire domestic unit, he primarily appears to chip away at the same thematics that he’s covered before with greater precision.
Attentions here rest on Louis (Gaspard Ulliel), a celebrity playwright who’s returning home to see his family for the first time in 12 years in order to inform them that he’s terminally ill. But as events unfold over the course of an afternoon, Louis soon discovers old resentments beginning to bubble to the surface as he, his brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel, playing to type), his sister-in-law Catherine (Marion Cotillard, miscast), his sister Suzanne (Léa Seydoux, stealing the show), and his mother Martine (Nathalie Baye, channelling Anne Dorval) sit down to reacquaint themselves with each other over a family lunch.
Dolan has adapted his script from the 1990 Jean-Luc Lagarce play of the same name, and regularly appears caught by its theatrical trappings; relying heavily on his distinctive brand of musical interludes to bridge the gap between scenes. A characteristic of the director’s previous works that now falls flat, the music chosen only occasionally in synth with the drama that’s unfolding; special shout out to Dragostea din tei.
Fused with a ferociously vibrant electrical energy, it’s his direction that, in the film’s finest moments, stirs within you the same fierce emotions that marked the likes of Mommy & Tom At The Farm as two of the best pictures of the last decade. Dolan’s grand crescendo, bathed in a blazing sunlight that amplifies the anger as it boils over into fury, is perfectly pitched; radiating a brash and breathless charge of strength that reminds you of how accomplished this young filmmaker can be.
The rest, however, is for the most part an agonising, and ostensibly negligible overload of family feuding; think Olivier Assayas’ Summer Hours with the subtlety exorcised, and the volume turned up to 12 – there are high-levels of intensity, but very little that’s incisive. Paradoxically for a film that makes so much noise, there’s very little to shout about here.
Director: Xavier Dolan
Writers: Xavier Dolan (screenplay), Jean-Luc Lagarce (based on play by)
Stars: Nathalie Baye, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard
Runtime: 97 mins
Country: Canada, France
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