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Dolan Demonstrates His Versatility
on 20 September 2015
Xavier Dolan’s fourth film in five years, 2013’s Tom At The Farm is an ambitious mix of intimate character study and brooding psychological thriller – for me, probably more successful on the former count than the latter – and continues to demonstrate the developing maturity of this most prolific talent. Based on a play by Michel Marc Bouchard, Dolan’s film once again sees him co-writing, co-producing and starring, here as the eponymous ex-boyfriend of the now deceased Guillaume, to whose family farm Tom visits in order to attend Guillaume’s funeral, only to discover his ex’s mother was totally in the dark about their relationship.
What follows is a slow-build drama as Tom is coerced by Guillaume’s arrogant brother Francis (played with convincing menace by Pierre-Yves Cardinal) into hiding from Guillaume’s mother the true nature of his relationship with her son and pretending that Guillaume had a girlfriend, Sarah. Dolan’s film works particularly well early on as a subtle portrayal of Tom’s grief (in effect, transferred to the ‘mythical’ Sarah), increasingly confused identity and his psychological and physical suffering at the hands of Francis. Latterly, though, as Sarah ('played’ by Tom’s friend) materialises on the scene to join in the game of pretence, Dolan lets the oblique plot twists and character motivations get a little out of hand. That said, Dolan’s cast perform uniformly well and there is an impressive, palpable sense of mystery and unease throughout, which is enhanced by a haunting score by Gabriel Yared and some impressive cinematography (claustrophobic interiors and stunning overhead shots of the rural surroundings) courtesy of André Turpin. In particular, the film’s closing sequence blurs dream and reality to mesmerising effect.
The film has been compared to both Hitchcock and Polanski – I would suggest the latter is more applicable since Hitchcock would not take to such obliqueness in the plotting – though I also detected hints of Michael Haneke (one of Dolan’s favourites, apparently). Dolan certainly remains one of the most intriguing young talents out there.