From Xavier Dolan (Laurence Anyways, Tom at the Farm) comes this drama about a single mother struggling to raise her violent son. Diane Després (Anne Dorval) is a widowed woman, whose troubled teenage son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) has recently moved back home. Steve is an emotionally unstable boy, who is prone to violent outbursts when he gets angry. Diane befriends her neighbour Kyla (Suzanne Clément), a shy teacher with a speech impediment, currently taking a sabbatical from her career. Kyla begins tutoring Steve and hopefully her positive influence would help him to improve his life.
Having only been directing films for five years, Xavier Dolan has quickly become one of Canada’s highest rising filmmakers. Indeed, Mommy has been getting raves since it premiered at Cannes, where it won the July Prize. In addition, the film has also recently been announced as Canada’s submission this year for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.
Mommy is set in a fictional version of Canada, where there exists a law that allows mentally unstable kids to be signed away to institutions. Described through the film’s opening intertitles, this law casts a spectre on the plot of Mommy. Steve is a boy who suffers from ADHD and other ailments and switches on a dime between being incredibly playful to having violent outbursts. Diane is a woman, who wants the best for her son, but does not seem completely capable to cope with his issues. When Kyla arrives on the scene, she is able to find a connection with Steve, which leads to hope that he would have a positive future.
Mommy is a film that is at times humorous and at others quite suspenseful. It is quickly established that Steve has a violent temper and it makes some scenes quite tense, since it is apparent that he could snap at any minute. Mommy can also be quite devastating, in how it builds up the hope that things are getting better for Diane and Steve, only to have an event cause that hope to come crashing down. When it comes down to it, Diane is left to make a decision about whether she still wants to care for Steve, who she still loves very much, despite the fact that he is getting increasingly emotionally unstable.
One interesting technical flourish Xavier Dolan does for Mommy is how the bulk of the film is presented in a 1:1 square aspect ratio, though there are a couple scenes in the film, where the aspect ratio expands to widescreen. These changes in aspect ratio, both of which happen during a musical montage, seem to represent moments when things seems very hopeful for Diane and Steve and are very effective in generating the appropriate emotional response, especially when the image suddenly goes back to being a square. I should also add that there is a very diverse and interesting soundtrack selection in Mommy, which features everything from Dido to Céline Dion to Oasis. The song selections in the film really help in setting the appropriate mood.
While on its surface Mommy is a simple story of a mother trying to raise her troubled son, the film is quite effective at pushing the right emotional buttons, as this very complex relationship is explored.9 | REALLY LIKED IT