F.I.L.M. of the Week (June 27, 2014)

27 06 2014

I Killed My MotherXavier Dolan has had quite a run over the past few years.  This May, the 25-year-old wunderkind not only cracked the official competition slate at Cannes, but also won the Jury Prize.  Just five years ago, his debut feature “I Killed My Mother” announced his arrival on the international scene at the Cannes sidebar Director’s Fortnight.

Thought it took that film a whopping four years to wash up on American shores, it’s an incredibly accomplished first feature with the confidence that it takes many filmmakers years to develop.  “I Killed My Mother” is visually daring, emotionally satisfying, and narratively compelling.  As such, it is my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”

Despite what the title might have you think, there is no murder in the film.  That’s not to say, however, that Dolan’s angsty 16-year-old character Hubert doesn’t contemplate offing his mother a great deal.  She pushes his buttons just as he pushes hers, resulting in plenty of bickering and nasty quarrels.

It’s not just a rant against mothers, though.  Dolan’s film contemplates the very root of mother-son tensions, the subject of stories for millennia.  “I Killed My Mother” feels like a courtroom drama at times as we weigh who is culpable for all the drama occurring before our eyes.  The answer isn’t ever entirely clear as we’re presented with a dilemma resembling the chicken-and-egg question.  Which came first?

Anne Dorval, playing the eponymous matriach Chantale, provides the pitch-perfect performance for the inquisitive Dolan.  She channels the essence of the matron nicely in the way she tries to provide tough love for her defiant son.  But as hard as she tries to provide consistent care, she lapses as all humans do.  Dorval’s deeply humane portrait of a woman torn by these two forces makes “I Killed My Mother” all the more fascinating to watch unfold.

While Dorval steals the movie on screen, it’s Dolan who commands it off screen.  His remarkable aesthetic flair mixes various styles of filmmaking deftly, giving “I Killed My Mother” an appropriately fractured feel.  The form matches the content remarkably well, for what better way to tell a story about conflicting feelings than with conflicting methods of presentation?  This has all the makings of a masterful film for any director; it’s merely compounded by the fact that it’s a debut for Dolan, who couldn’t even legally buy alcohol in the United States when he made it.  (He’s Canadian, anyways, so that fact doesn’t really matter.)

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