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TIFF 2014 Review: Mommy

Since his debut in 2009 with I Killed My Mother, twenty-five-year-old Quebecois director Xavier Dolan has never disappointed. Some worried that Dolan peaked early, as his second feature Heartbeats, wasn’t as well received as his debut when it premiered at Cannes. Dolan didn’t take it the cool reception to heart, bouncing back with the excellent films Laurence Anyways and Tom at the Farm. While all his films were great, it was unclear whether or not he’d be able to top I Killed My Mother. Now, five years later, he has.

When Dolan’s latest film Mommy premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, some thought it was a lock for the prestigious Palm d’Or award. The film ended up losing to Winter Sleep, and while we haven’t seen Winter Sleep, it’s hard to believe that there’s a film this year that’s better than Mommy.

The film follows the volatile relationship between Diane “Die” Després (Anne Dorval) and her son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon). Deep down, Steve is good-natured, but the smallest thing can set him off into a violent rage. His eager and loving demeanor can turn on a dime. Just when Die is ready to give up on her son, Kyla (Suzanne Clément) moves in across the street and changes everything.

Everything about Mommy is gorgeous. The film is shot in a 1:1 aspect ratio, which feels weird for about five minutes, before seeming completely natural. The three lead performances are wonderful, with Anna Dorval giving what is perhaps the best performance of her entire career. While the film is sometimes very dark, viewers won’t be able to stop themselves from smiling throughout, especially as the trio dances around the living room singing Celine Dion.

Mommy is a masterpiece. Just when we thought Dolan couldn’t top himself, he gives us the film that confirms his place as one of the best working directors in the industry.

[star v=5]

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.

  • Celine Dion? “She’s a fucking national treasure!”

  • I was silent clapping during the aspect ratio changes. Such a great use of cinematic language, it was a beautiful moment.