Matthias and Maxime have been friends since childhood. Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas, in his second role for the big screen) tries to gain a foothold in the business world while Maxime makes a living as bartender, caring for his mother, a recovering addict.
The two young men give off slight reticence, an awkwardness, it becomes clear quickly that these two aren’t just involved in a friendship. But Matthias has his girlfriend and Maxime is single. The tight-knit group of friends that they both belong to meet at parties where the two friends look at each other strangely from across the room, their gaze revealing.
When everyone goes to a holiday home on a lake, a friend’s sister, Rivette, who is making an experimental film, asks for two men to volunteer for a scene. Matthias and Maxime sign up, only to be told, at the last moment, that they’ll be taking part in a kissing scene.
Xavier Dolan’s carefully-timed script unspools with grace and determination, never in a hurry. More than a story about the ambiguity of a bromance, it is also an elegy to friendship, its codes, forms and rituals.
What I enjoyed about this film is that, Dolan has one of the main roles, as Maxime (this is the second time he gives himself a main role, after 2013’s “Tom at the Farm”), “Matthias et Maxime” shows, simply, a vulnerable aspect of our humanity, comparing and contrasting it between two different individuals, and it touched me very much. Matthias and Maxime like each other but at the same time they don’t want to trash a good friendship.
As with previous films by Xavier Dolan, the music is as diverse as it is exceptional–two cheers for a great soundtrack! In a scene from the holiday home by the lake chapter, Maxime jumps into the lake and swims furiously to a dizzying piano composition, to great effect. He swims so hard, in fact, that he gets lost, and ends up in an unknown side of the lake.
It’s unusual for an auteur to appear in his own movies on-again, off-again, sometimes happy, often forlorn. Is Dolan cultivating his own myth, his own mystery? I wonder what compelled him to appear in this film, but not the precedent one. Is it because “Matthias et Maxime” is one of his most personal films, to date? Whatever secrets lie behind “Matthias et Maxime,” Maxime, and Dolan, both keep forging ahead with modern gaiety and apparent assurance. This film, a new bold act of self-affirmation, shows Dolan’s ambition to touch the extremes of despair and happiness.