REVIEW: Tom at the Farm

12 08 2015

Tom at the FarmXavier Dolan has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting rising stars in world cinema in no small part due to his directorial verve.  “Tom at the Farm” showcases a different side of him, though: restraint.  This pastoral chamber drama plays like a spare Polanski thriller with a hurried, impatient modern bent.

While this only sees release in the United States after “Mommy,” Dolan shot it before that film as the follow-up to “Laurence Anyways.”  This confirms my suspicion that the latter, a nearly three-hour opus, contains two movies worth of stylistic flourishes from the director.

Tom (Dolan, in front of the camera) arrives at the rural abode his late boyfriend Guillaume’s family, but the grieving mother has no clue what kind of friend Tom was.  Ta-da, tension! The conflict does add a few wrinkles with Guillaume’s brother and a female friend thrown into the mix, although it never really seems to reach the level of weightiness that the aesthetic suggests Dolan thinks the story possesses.

Sometimes, “Tom at the Farm” feels like Dolan just building tension for its own sake. He’s good at it because he’s a talented filmmaker. But this is more of an exercise than an epiphany. It serves Dolan by broadening his repertoire more than it serves the audience as entertaining, provocative cinema.

This is him cutting his teeth, not flexing his muscles.  Consider “Tom at the Farm” a placeholder, an unfulfilled promise of a great thriller Dolan could make – should he choose to return to the genre, of course.  B- / 2stars