The Review/Short Read/

Hump Day Movie: Mommy

Xavier Dolan's film will break your heart and make you hug your mom

by
May 4, 2016

May is here! This means two fairly important things:

1) The inexorable passage of time continues apace, no matter what futile measures you may take to stop it.

2) Mother's Day is coming up. Pretty much immediately. As in this upcoming Sunday May 8th.

Don't panic. We at TIFF recognize you're busy humans (what with your previously referenced attempts to stop time and all), and therefore have you covered when it comes to last minute Mother's Day gift ideas. Rather than some gaudy piece of jewelry or run-of-the-mill day at the spa or archery lesson, we suggest that you cuddle up with that special maternal figure in your life and take in Mommy, directed by Quebec's enfant terrible, Xavier Dolan.

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/embed/d7rtSqI0ZeA

Mommy is Dolan's fifth feature. It begins with text informing the audience of a Canadian law being passed that allows parents to commit their children to insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion at will. This is totally not a law in our country, but it's a bit of cheeky foreshadowing that informs much of the ensuing drama.

The film focuses on the relationship between Steve, a troubled, mercurial young man played with beautiful volatility by Antoine Olivier-Pilon, and his mother Die, played by the impressive Anne Dorval. Dorval's Die is a hardened widow, all mini-skirts and bravado, struggling to manage with her delinquent son. When he is kicked out of a juvenile detention centre for literally setting the cafeteria on fire, Die takes him in, promising to home school him until he turns 16 (the age by which she can legally commit him to insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion). As Steve and Die attempt to coexist, they make friends with their neighbor Kyla (Suzanne Clement), a former teacher who suffered a nervous breakdown, leaving her with a stutter. Kyla offers to tutor Steve and becomes close with Die, slowly healing herself and her stutter through the process of becoming a part of their lives.

Dolan shoots the film in 1:1, framing the majority of the action in a claustrophobic square that reflects the stalled nature of the lives of the film's protagonists. The screen widens at specific moments throughout the film, expanding the frame and showing the beauty of possibility through a simple trick of the camera.

Mommy is a beautiful, technically sublime film. Watch it with whoever it is that you call mom, and make her realize that she did a pretty good job on you.