This will definitely become an art-house classic! The film was surprisingly well thought out; It posed a lot of moral, societal, and familial questions.
Wunderkind director Xavier Dolan did not present the film in the usual full-screen; instead, it had two permanent black bars one on either side. It resembled watching a movie filmed by a smartphone in portrait mode, but watched rotated. An ingenious technique used by a millennial director to facilitate audiences to see it through the lens of his contemporaries. The bars acted like walls, it also conveyed a sense of suffocation; ironically, it also bound the three main characters literally closer to each other. The only time the screen opened up fully was when all three main characters finally found true comforts in their unusual trusting relationship; they laughed, they moved forwards in unison, and they tasted FREEDOM. A pinnacle moment however short-lived.
This film is penned and directed by the adulated Québécois Xavier Dolan. At 27 he has already made six full-length films. It was said that he could be the next Woody Allen, who maintains a record of one film a year. Dolan was also endowed with accolades that he rightly deserved: 59 wins and 83 nominations in six years. Mommy spoke volume of his capability and artistry. In comparison, two famous contemporary French directors François Ozon (France) and Denis Villeneuve(Quèbec) didn’t start their long-métrages only in their 30’s. Dolan is one successful millennial to be reckoned with. (read my review of Dolan’s 2016’s Juste la fin du monde/ It’s only the end of the world.)
A single mommy, Diane ‘Die’(Anne Dorval), widowed, has been supporting her only child, Steve(Antoine-Olivier Pilon), since he was only three years old. Steve has been a child diagnosed with ADHD with ODD (opposition defiant disorder); he has uncontrollable outburst of anger that may lead to violent acts. Diane’s world has mostly been circumscribed by his son’s life. Although she remains coquettish, especially with one of his neighbours, dating has been a challenge. On her way to a parent’s meeting, Diane is involved in a car accident. When she gets to the boarding school late, an administrator tells her Steve has started a fire, and some victims have had serious burns to their bodies. Steve is expelled.
Shortly, Diane is out of a job as well, the stress and tension between her and his son at times are explosive, and other times are endearing. Diane starts noticing her neighbour across the street, Kyla(Suzanne Clément), who is on sabbatical teaching at a high school. She is experiencing some sort of psychological impasse that causes her to stutter. Diane and Kayla become good friends, and Steve seems to be able to better control his emotions under the two female adult figures.
Unfortunately, the incident at school soon catches up quicker than they have time to enjoy their togetherness.
The chemistry between Dorval and Pilon were impeccable and fluid, which is paramount for the film to have an organic feel: real. Clément’s performance should not be overlooked, she was like a tube of crazy glue joining Dorval and Pilon to become an invincible trinity.
Kyla was an enigma, which makes this film worthwhile to watch again. Although a supporting character, Kyla might have been the most important character to make this film not being a mere cliché son-hates-and-loves -mommy crazy movie.
P.S. be prepared for swear words in québécois.