Time Out rating:
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Time Out says
Fri May 23
Cinema doesn't come much more exuberant, musical and raw than French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan's 'Mommy'. It's the tale of a wild, gurning, loveable teen, Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), with severe, heavily medicated ADHD, and his love-hate relationship with his mother, Die (Anne Dorval), and their new neighbour, the meek, stuttering Kyla (Suzanne Clément), who moves in across the road with her husband and young daughter. Where others would find misery and pain (and this offers both) as Die struggles with the violent and wild Steve, Dolan finds joy and wild energy in the most unusual places.
As Die struggles to keep Steve out of trouble and Kyla becomes a secondary mother figure to him, Dolan throws everything but the kitchen sink at his film, using a cameraphone-style screen ratio that he widens for the film's happier moments, even getting his main character to appear to do the widening himself with his hands. It may feel crass and bombastic at times, and you may wonder why Dolan introduces the whole thing with some convoluted explanatory text, but you can't ignore its heartfelt emotion and winning belief that there's no single definition of what makes a real family.
This is Dolan's fifth feature – he's still only 25 – and he does terrific work again with the actresses Dorval and Clément, both of whom appeared in his 2009 debut 'I Killed My Mother' as well as in some of his subsequent films. This is melodrama and then some, and songs by Dido and Oasis boom out over musicial interludes and montages. It's anything but minimal, but none of this drowns out the very real compassion and love that Dolan shows for all these characters, none of whom behave brilliantly all the time but who all struggle to get along in life as best they can. With Dolan, you feel you're in the company of a truly original voice and one unafraid to make his mistakes right up there on the screen.
Author: Dave Calhoun