This Cannes Festival has finally been unshackled from the supremacy of older males turning out less than stellar work: Xavier Dolan, a twenty five year-old filmmaker from Québec who’s brought films to Cannes before has thrown down the gauntlet. His new film “Mommy” is the first one to appear in the competition section and is the new favorite for the top prize this year.
In “Mommy” single-mother Diane raises her violent son Steve alone at home. Steve wears his Oedipus complex on his sleeve and the mother is aging ungracefully, battering herself with drink and cigarettes. Before long, the mysterious neighbor from across the way inserts themselves into their lives, improving everything.
“Mommy” was cast righteously with, among others, the addition of Montreal-born actor Patrick Huard (from 2011’s excellent “Starbuck”) who appears on-again off-again as the love interest of the mommy of the title, played by Anne Dorval (Dorval appeared in Dolan’s previous film “J’ai tué ma mère”).
This new Dolan film comes with scenes of madly violence, cuss words aplenty, and the addition of “tabarnac” (the Canadian-French version of the F-word) to my own vocabulary. It’s also left me wondering why the heater-waver that Steve’s deadbeat biological father inventor created does not exist in real life. Young Steve is angry at many people: at his father for walking away on him and at his mother, for daring to go out with other men. After Kyla the neighbor tutors him and becomes friends his mother, things return to a semblance of normalcy. Until things go bad again.
Dolan has made this new film—definitely his best one to date—with a fervor and a conviction absent other films in this year’s selection. With a generous brushstroke he’s painted a totally unhinged portrait of filial love, with the added plus that he’s done so entirely without giving in to irony, that maddening attitude which seems to pervade so many an auteur’s work these days (we live in an age of irony, alas).
Dolan walks to the drum of his own beat and he’s managed to make a truly original film all the while permanently establishing his own imprimatur. It’s not hard to see why this film could walk away with the top prize at this year’s Cannes Festival. “Mommy”: what a great ride!
DID YOU KNOW? If Xavier Dolan won the Palme D’Or he’d be the youngest filmmaker ever to do so.