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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.14.14] Canada drama

Xavier Dolan is enviable for his body of work to date but when you consider the Canadian director is only 25 and look at the work he's produced it's staggering to consider. Dolan lost me with Heartbeats (review) and Laurence Anyways (review) but his genre turn with last year's Tom at the Farm marked not only a new direction for the young director but also a new maturity; Dolan emerged as a director who could take a personal story and add new dimension to it.

News that Mommy was another masterpiece had to be taken with a grain of salt. Cannes is notorious for celebrating directors rather than individual works so it came as little surprise that Dolan had captured attention but was Mommy really the masterpiece it was heralded to be? In a single word: yes.

Taking place a few years in the future, Mommy unfolds in a world where parents with trouble children can turn their kids over to the government for care. Steve is one of these troubled kids and when his dad is done trying to keep him in line, his mom Die steps up to the plate. She's in no position to take him in, she can barely afford to take care of herself, but determined to save her son from rotting away in a government facility, she takes on the responsibility of Steve. He's out of control but deep down he's a good kind and with the help of Kyla, the lonely neighbour across the street who first joins the pair out of Die's necessity but soon becomes indispensible friends with Steve and Die, the trio become inseparable, spending hours together and sharing in both the happy and difficult times.

What's fascinating about Mommy is that the plot says both everything about the movie and nothing at all. Yes, the story follows these three people over a period of time and we see each of them grow and change into the characters they are at the movie's close but it's the small scenes that really make Mommy memorable. Steve riding a skateboard down the road as Kyla and Die follow behind pushing a buggy full of groceries. Die and Kyla sharing wine on a quiet afternoon. Kyla and Steve studying something or rather. There are moments of bliss in Mommy and those moments are far more effective thanks to the movie's aspect ratio which is no gimmick. Dolan uses the one to one with great affect and the square framing narrows the focus to the faces of the actors, stripping away distractions.

For some directors, relying so exclusively on the onscreen talent could prove problematic but Dolan doesn't hesitate and he has no reason to as the trio of actors, particularly Dolan regulars Anne Dorval and Suzanne Clément, are outstanding and their performances magnetic.

Mommy doesn't simply live up to expectation, it smashes right through it. It's difficult to believe a work this accomplished, with this much nuance and this level of emotional and technical maturity, comes from such a young director but Dolan continues to impress and to prove that age really is nothing but a number.

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