Friday, June 19, 2009

J'ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother)

In Quebec, if you live in a place where mass media can't reach you, I wouldn't be surprised that you haven't heard about this film since May. Given that Xavier Dolan's first feature film was well appreciated at the Cannes International Film Festival (specifically during the Directors' Fortnight), was the hype surrounding J'ai tué ma mère deserved? Honestly, Dolan has a bright future ahead of him as a director and as an actor. However, it's hard to suppress the thought that the film's script is a little bit draft.


Hubert (Xavier Dolan), a Grade 10 student, lives with his mom Chantal (Anne Dorval) in a suburb South of Montreal ever since he was seven years old. At 16 years old, Hubert unashamedly displays his visceral hatred towards his mother, doesn't really feel like talking to her and has a love relation with Antonin (François Arnaud), a friend from High school. Since his grades in school are low, Hubert's parents (who both reunite just to take a very important decision) decide to send him in a boarding school in Coaticook. Needless to say that Hubert will hate his mom even more and one wonders if his relation with her is doomed forever.

Obviously, many people have labelled Dolan as a "young prodigy" since he's in the beginning of his twenties. At the first look, such an honour is deserved given that Dolan, as a director, shows his vast knowledge of cinema. In fact, despite having a budget below one million dollars, Dolan impresses us with his cinematography that reminds us of Wong Kar-Wai's style (i.e. shots from behind reminiscent of In the Mood for Love) or even the TV series Six Feet Under (short scenes that express the character's thought and not what they're actually doing). All in all, talk about a student who uses tricks from the great masters, because they work.

Moreover, although some scenes (the ones in which Dolan's and Dorval's respective character yell at each other) can seem overacted, the cast's performance is impeccable, especially from Xavier Dolan and Anne Dorval, who form a good team. Besides, I don't need to tell you how the supporting actors do a good job (Suzanne Clément, Patricia Tulasne and François Arnaud) as characters who are here to show Hubert that in an imperfect world, there's always a reason to be joyful.

However, J'ai tué ma mère's script is somehow draft if we look at the elaboration of the relation between Hubert and his mom. Since we're dealing with a love-hatred relation, it's surprising to see that despite being constantly lashed out by her son, Chantal's love for her son remains unshaken (no, this is not a joke). How realistic! Had the script been a little bit more developed, the film would have had a touch of tension that J'ai tué ma mère needed, this means having Chantal questioning her love for her son as the film advances (ex: threats of kicking him out of the house). Besides, although we know that Hubert doesn't feel listened to by his mom, what specific event actually brought him to hate his mom so much?

Finally, despite feeling incomplete in canvassing the relation between the two leading characters, J'ai tué ma mère should be considered for what it is. In fact, watch it as a first feature film by a young promising director/actor who will sooner or later have his name standing next to many great directors in the likes of Akira Kurosawa, Clint Eastwood and Atom Egoyan just to name a few. All in all, although J'ai tué ma mère may not appeal to the mainstream public, I'd recommend it to people who are looking for a good independent film.

Rating: 3.5/5



Origin:Canada (2009)
Length:96 minutes
Genre:Drama
Screenplay:Xavier Dolan
Director:Xavier Dolan
Starring:Xavier Dolan, Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clément, Patricia Tulasne, François Arnaud and Niels Schneider


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