Mother-son relationships have always been an underlying theme in Xavier Dolan’s works (as I’ve read about him) and Mommy is considered one of the best. It’s also the film that led me to know the 26-year-old Canadian directing prodigy, given that it’s his fifth film since 19.
Mommy tells a story about a white trash forty-something single mom struggling to raise her ADHD-inflicted teen son and their special bond with a former teacher who lives across their house. They are attracted to others’ problems and soon made a team of three against the world.
The film first caught my attention with its unconventional aspect ratio 1:1 which appears to look like a selfie frame on an upright camera. I don’t like it. Movies are supposed to provide as impressive widescreen experience as possible, end of story. However, there were some points when I think the size does make some sense: it widens out at happier moments to accentuate the scarcity of it. I mean, I’m quite impressed, but is it necessary to sacrifice the whole good movie time for some fleeting pretentious scenes?
Anyway, the film still got me. And it was not because of the touching storyline or the VSCO-inspired beautiful film color. It was the way Dolan conveys the story and his style of depicting it. Mommy is no general film about family, it’s the way Dolan himself thinks of family, which is original. Dolan’s family makes everything else irrelevant and the world negligible, it’s a bit supercilious maybe. He acknowledges the fact that love doesn’t help but his dreamy rebellious quality just goes on to violently promote the hopeless value. And that’s what I like about the director. There are no moral lessons, no strong family-is-the-best message, just love in its purest form, painful and addictive. The world is full of general values, why not a personal taste sometimes?
And yes, the actor! Antoine-Olivier Pilo. A violent son who constantly throws bad languages at his mother despite being so passionately in love with her that sometimes he conducts painful self-destruction in hopes for validation. That’s not a thing we see every day, let alone someone acting the hell out of it beautifully. To judge logically, Steve’s emotional obsession with his mother is decadence, a loser problem. But the fact that he loves his mother like that, the intimacy they share, is inventive.
I’m not necessarily a fan of this typical type of indie film to love it. Mommy isn’t on my most favorite list but it was another good experience I earned from the beautiful world.