Sunday, September 7, 2014

TIFF 14 Film Review - Mommy

Diana "Die" Despres (Anne Dorval) drives along a city street. Suddenly her vehicle is broadsided at an interaction.  She exits the vehicle, temple bloodied to check the damage and argue with the other driver.  Next she appears at a school to pick up her son Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon) who is in trouble at school apparently starting a fire that severely injured another student. Steve is kicked out of school and Die has to take him home to be his primary caregiver and teacher.

Quebec Director Xavier Dolan returns with another feature centred on a volatile single mother son relationship. The film is also fitted with his signature 1:1 aspect ratio. The film tackles the issue of ADHD and the struggle to deal with a sexually aggressive, violent child with a hair trigger temper at home or commit him into the system.

The third side to the film acting triangle Kyla (Dolan veteran Suzanne Clement) a withdrawn high school teacher with a speaking problem who witnesses the interaction between the two from across the street and volunteers to home school Steve.

Dolan 1:1 ratio is a bit uncomfortable to watch at first, as the viewer has to be aware of the extreme vertical in using this aspect ratio. But the use of this ratio allows for two incredible moments where Steve is spot on and in the flow.  The first a long board sequence down the middle of neighbourhood streets with Die and Kyla riding bicycles behind him to the side. Steve puts his hands out front together palms opposed and separates expanding the screen to full for the sequence.  The other a glimpse into a potential future for Steve with his teenage turbulence in the past.

Anne Dorval gives a wonderful performance in the lead role of Die as she once again is the mother figure in a Dolan film.  Quick witted, tough, chain smoking, clothes too loud and too tight she blasts out at doubters and detractors in her thick Quebecois accent.

Pilon is super as Steve angelic as a choirboy in one instant then violent, intimidating and clearly capable of inflicting severe damage the next. He is in constant motion barreling forward to the next activity that has a good chance of overwhelming him envying an outburst.

Suzanne Clements quiet Kyla holds her own with the fireball Despres duo. She quickly meets Steve's intensity in their first alone encounter to get him in line. She is a taskmaster with his studies and becomes tight friend quickly with Die.

Dolan has once again crafted an outstanding piece with a subject matter he knows well. The relation ship between the Despres pair is multifaceted. Dolan also has a point to press on the rules of the province and a parent's power to direct a child into the system and perhaps sending them down a path where they will be lost forever.

**** Out of 4.

Mommy | Xavier Dolan | Canada | 2014 | 139 Minutes.

Tags: Boarding School, Instutilization, Long board, 1:1 Aspect Ratio, Quebec, Mother Son, Home Schooling.

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