Critique

Xavier Dolan and His Mothers

Not many film directors have killed their mother before or called them a bitch; not even in their imagination or in one of their characters. The most common bad thing we can hear a son saying to his mother in movies is “I hate you”. Xavier Dolan’s point of view of mothers in I killed my Mother (2009) and Mommy (2014) is definitely not suitable for big mom lovers. Also, it cannot be omitted at all that his movies are not probably very attractive to the most conventional viewers, but they definitely seem to especially appeal to a younger audience.

Dolan’s movies appear to be influenced by the indie movement or style that is seen on new video clips, music trends, and arts in general. Part of the soundtrack of his movies, character Heartbeats), the parties and places they go to, and other aspects, are the proof of the influence that this new trend has in this talented young author.

With only 28 years old, this Canadian from Montreal, Quebec has been awarded eight times in Cannes, three times with César awards and a huge number of winning prizes and nominations. Xavier Dolan is now a prominent figure in indie films. Director and writer of 6 movies, almost one per year since 2009 and using almost always the same casting, Dolan is another living proof of how you can have quality in movies without spending millions on production.In both of his movies where family relationship is the topic, most particularly the mother and son

In both of his movies where family relationship is the topic, most particularly the mother and son relationship, communication is extremely rude going through different stages.In both movies, you can see that the son characters have several attempts to get the relation with his mother right. Those little moments are the ones that make the movies less tragic and give a little bit of “conventionalism” to the stories, like the ending scene of I killed my mother: That last shot of Hubert and his mother Chantale gives a good feeling about the film, almost with a morale: At the end of the day, family is family; and they are always together no matter what situations come by.

As a contrast, the resolution in Mommy doesn’t quite seem a quite happy one. There is a different perspective of what a mother really is to Dolan in the two different movies. In his latest movie, Dolan renders mother’s character from a more mature point of view. In I killed my mother, the director seems to take sides with the son’s (director himself) perspective as opposed to in Mommy, where Dolan appears to be more sympathetic with the role of single mothers and their struggles in a hostile world reminding us movies like Erin Brockovich. Finally in both movies, there is an absent father who did not seem to be –when he was around- an ideal one.

Steve in Mommy has a similar look of a character taken from a Harmony Korine’s movie and from the 1979 music video by The Smashing Pumpkins. He uses dirty words in almost every of his lines and he is also the result of a messed up society, while Hubert is just a misunderstood young adult who has a mother that is isolated at the same time from his son. You can notice how Dolan shows familial conflict technically and emotionally from a point of view of a grown adult (at the end, his mother was right) giving his filmography a little bit of more diversity contrary to filmmakers who are criticized for obsessively treating same contexts and topics like Larry Clark with skateboarding and drugs.

The paradox here is that when it comes to my preferences, I choose I killed my Mother’s story rather than Mommy’s. But the reason is not that I killed my Mother is better, not at all. It just feels that it has a better-defined resolution and also a circular story with a clearer message. It takes the mother to long to drive Steve to the mental institution in Mommy, it would have been better to capture more of that in the movie considering that the overture of the film has a line which refers to it. Mommy is technically better, having an indie hand-held camera control that delights us. It has a couple of magical well-made scenes that can get you too, like the ones where Steve, Diane, Kyla are riding their bikes and longboard on the streets with Wonderwall by Oasis on the back, or in the mall where Kyla finds Steve stabbed by himself on the floor and tries to scream for help, or the scene when they all dance, drink and laugh in the kitchen together with such a pleasure and tranquil.

This essay is from film critic and cinephile Daniel Patiño

 

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