Cinema doesn’t come much more exuberant and raw than French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s Mommy. It’s the tale of Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), a wild teen with severe ADD, his love-hate relationship with his mother, Die (Anne Dorval), and their stuttering new neighbor, Kyla (Suzanne Clément). Songs by Dido and Oasis boom out over the brilliant musical interludes, but they never drown out the very real compassion and love that Dolan shows for the flawed but lovably irrepressible characters at the heart of his unkempt melodrama.
As Die fights to keep Steve out of trouble and Kyla becomes a secondary mother figure to him, Dolan fits everything but the kitchen sink into the confines of his cell phone–style screen ratio. Mommy may feel crass and bombastic, but Dolan finds joy in the most unexpected places. You simply can’t ignore his heartfelt and winning belief that there’s no one 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.