In anticipation of Mother’s Day, here’s an anti-bouquet from 25 year old Xavier Dolan whose latest film, his fifth, won a prize at the Cannes Film Festial. When fifteen year old Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) is booted out of a special-care institution, his mother, single parent 46 year old widow Diana “Die” (Anne Dorval), is forced to tend to her violently hyperactive, often charismatic, son whose anarchic instability leads to emotional and physical chaos.
A.O.Scott, NY Times, nails it: “it seethes and howls with unchecked feeling… it is a pocket opera of grandiose self-pity, a wild and uncompromising demand for attention, a cri de coeur from the selfie generation.” It sucks us in to root for peace and understanding. Mommy herself is nearly as mercurial as her son, ping-ponging between hurtfully lashing out at her strapping son and smothering him with love. Early on she loses her job, tries home schooling, and looks for free-lance work. Luckily, Kyla (Suzanne Clement), a stammer-afflicted neighbor from across the street who has her own hidden wounds, comes into their lives. A former teacher on leave, she’s is able to work with Steve once she wins his respect in an amazing scene. The film is shot in a square format as if on a phone, and the ’90s pop soundtrack and the assured filmmaking style in tandem with the performances make it hard to turn away.
“Mommy is an exhilarating 139 minutes of cinema. Xavier Dolan has that enfant-terrible attitude of a young Lars von Trier or Leos Carax, the flair for melodrama of a Northern Almodóvar, and a fearlessness in plumbing the depths of ordinary people that evokes even Cassavetes.” — Joumane Chahine, Film Comment