Director: Xavier Dolan
Writer: Xavier Dolan
Cast: Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Suzanne Clement
A widowed single mother, raising a violent son with ADHD alone, finds new hope when a mysterious neighbor inserts herself into their household. The neighbor is also struggling and recovering from some emotional trouble, cause of which is not explained in the film, that has left her with speaking difficulties. She seems to be able to connect well with her neighbor's son and the interaction seems to help her in overcoming her difficulty in their presence. The film is set in French speaking part of Canada.
I had gone for my mother's hospital checkup two days back and in the waiting place we had interacted with a lady who had a 38-year old son having psychiatric problems after being subjected to hazing at college. So it was kind of kooky to watch 'Mommy' next, which also deals with a similar subject matter even though in the film Steve's troubles begin when his father dies and the family starts facing financial difficulties. At the beginning of the film, his mother takes him home from a correctional facility after him having burnt down the cafeteria causing injury to others. To make matters worse she loses her job. The film starts with a narrow aspect ratio of 1:1, a square, and I was wondering whether it was a problem with the print that I was watching. It is intentional and when the family starts interacting with the neighbor and all of them becomes kind of happy, we get a scene where Steve is skating with his two mommies listening to Oasis' Wonderwall' in background, and he literally pulls the frame wide into a normal aspect ratio to indicate the mood at that point of time. It again goes back to 1:1 when his mother gets a court notice seeking damages related to his cafeteria burning incident. Towards the end of the film, there is a sequence where they have gone for a picnic and Steve's mom visualizes an alternative reality for them with Steve leading a normal life. The frame again widens and the sequence, set to some stunning background score, reminded me of a similar one from Spike Lee's '25th Hour'. I should watch that one again soon.
With films like Mommy, the course that the story takes can be very predictable, with it either being a 'feel good' one or a 'feel worse' one. I did fear it taking 'Rain Man' route when it comes to ending but it did surprise me there even though the outcome is the same. So whether a film works or not despite being predictable depends on how well you connect to the characters and this film certainly did that for me. I was so transfixed that I sat through the end credits which was set to Lana Del Rey's 'Born to Die', an excellent choice.
Overall it is a great watch with excellent performances from the three leading characters. It was part of Official selection for Palme d'Or at Cannes where it won the Jury prize. I haven't seen any other films from Xavier Dolan, who at the age of 25 have already made five feature length films. Mommy is considered as his best work so far. His first film, I Killed My Mother, is supposed to be semi-autobiographical with him starring as a homosexual at odds with his mother.