The first Xavier Dolan film I watched also happened to be his first. Watching J’ai Tué Ma Mère — Dolan’s directorial debut, written by and starring himself — was especially exciting for an early teenage francophile. It was full of angst and, at the time, its story of a young gay teenager’s relationship with his mother felt relatable. It was the first time I had seen non-heterosexual sex in a film, and it was the first ‘queer’ film I’d ever seen. The film was quite important, and a big influence on my youth.
After that first film, my relationship with Dolan’s work has been akin to that of a young girl with a boy band. I watched Les Amours Imaginaires, then I spent a month listening to Dalida’s version of ‘Bang Bang’. Laurence Anyways opened my eyes to the concept of transgender — something that is only really being explored by mainstream culture now. I endure some of the more drawn out scenes, because I love the director and his work, and I know that I won’t regret it come the film’s end. My fascination with Dolan and his work renders me inappropriate to accurately criticise it.
Beyond his visual style — something I reductively think of as ‘Sofia Coppola but darker’ — no two Xavier Dolan films are alike. His latest, Tom À La Ferme is a psychological thriller, and a good one at that. At some points you forget that the guy on screen also wrote and directed the film.
I won’t delve any deeper in my discussion of the film. It’s something you have to see, and I strongly recommend you do so.