At what point do we stop referring to prolific Quebecois director/writer/actor Xavier Dolan as a wunderkind? He's still only 27, but with six feature films under his belt, he already feels like a veteran. But perhaps that moment comes when the wonder goes. His latest, 'It's Only The End Of The World', is unfortunately his worst by some distance, a talky unsatisfying anticlimax. It has none of the precocious daring of 'I Killed My Mother' (2009), the cutting-edge style of 'Heartbeats' (2010), the arch charm of 'Laurence Anyways' (2012), the psychosexual thrills of 'Tom at the Farm' (2013) or the considerable playfulness of 'Mommy' (2014).
What is does have is a wonderful cast, sadly wasted on a screeching melodrama which sees a 34 year old who has been away for 12 years decide to pay a visit to his family, with whom he subsequently argues, and that's about it. Nathalie Baye, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux and Gaspard Ulliel - any one of these actors is enough to make a film fly, but clustered together into a fractious ensemble with little to do but carp at one another, there is scant sense of who any of these people are or why it might be interesting to spend time with them. They mostly come off as terrible but tedious sorts whose problems are uninteresting.
So what went wrong? With the exception of 'Tom at the Farm', Dolan's scripts have all been original works until now - here, he's adapting a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, and its theatrical roots are visible. Dolan is usually a visual stylist as good as any working today, with a fantastic pop sensibility, able to fashion enduring images from a magpie mixture of high fashion, elevated kitsch and white-trash ephemera. Here, there are still moments of transcendence, with some beautiful chiaroscuro close-ups of almost drag queen-like make-up on some of the women, giving rise to a sort of Caravaggio-meets-Ru Paul effect that would work wonderfully as a painting. Unfortunately, because it's so cinematically inert, all that craft and talent seems wasted. Let's hope his next film sees him working on another Dolan original.