The tenuous relationship between a mother and son are at the centre of Mommy, a Canadian film with a devastating and emotional core that contrasts with pop-montages and stylistic quirks.

Mommy

Story by Rumnique Nannar

Unlike his previous outings, Mommy is Xavier Dolan’s tightest film despite its 134 minute length. Winner of the Palm D’or Jury Prize at Cannes, this film centres around the volatile Diane ‘Die’  (Anne Dorval), her unstable son Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon), and their neighbour Kyla (Suzanne Clement) who changes their lives as a family. Set in a distant 2015, where parents are able to give their children to the state due to their behavior or inability to care for them, the lives of these characters are always hanging by a thread which brings a boiling tension to the film. When Die loses her job, she reaches out to Kyla to help home-school Steve, a swearing, swaggering, and violent terror. Kyla, Die and Steve gain an easy rapport with each other, and the film soon becomes hilarious as a stammering Kyla lets loose around the pair. Dorval and Pilon deliver operatic and wild performances that aren’t over-the-top considering the scrappy characters they play.

This is a visually stunning film, but its 1:1 ratio (a portrait style much like a selfie) may infuriate moviegoers, although it’s used strategically to signify the closed off worlds of the trio. When it opens for a gorgeous montage set to Oasis’ Wonderwall, you can’t help but marvel at how Dolan makes you smile with his audacious storytelling. The pop-montages don’t bother me, so I was transfixed by the trio lip-syncing in the kitchen to a Celine Dion song, as well as the haunting montage when Die envisions a happier life for Steve where he gets into college, gets a girlfriend, and succeeds.

Mommy is an engaging tale of a chaotic mother and son who can’t live with each other but are compelled to be “part of that team, just you and me.”

Mommy plays at the Vancouver International Film Festival and has been selected as Canada’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards in 2015.