I Killed My Mother

96 minutes

The selection of J'ai tué ma mère for Cannes 2009's Directors Fortnight heralded the splashy arrival of Canadian 20-year-old wonderboy Xavier Dolan – a Québécois former child actor who directed, wrote, designed the costumes and starred in this coming-of-age tale positively brimming with adolescent swagger. Implausible as it may seem, it is the revelation of a real filmmaking talent, even if one that hasn't yet harnessed all of its energy – and it isn't difficult to see why mr. Dolan became a magnet for divisive reactions.
     J'ai tué ma mère, loosely suggested by the director's own convoluted relationship with his mother, swings wildly between the teenage arrogance of someone who wants everything right now and a surprising maturity for someone this untried, veering between “look at how cool I am” puffed up pride and genuinely affecting emotion. Even so, you simply can't help feeling that was exactly what mr. Dolan himself wanted all along – even on his spot-on performance as the impossibily spoilt 16-year old at the center of the film, an arty gay type at loggerheads with the harried single mother (the magnificent Anne Dorval) he berates for not understanding his “difference”.
     At the centre of J'ai tué ma mère is a simple tale of miscommunication between two people who have grown apart without really understanding how or why. It would be easy for mr. Dolan, as ringmaster of this circus, to blame everybody but his character – and that is where the maturity kicks in: in its fair-minded apportioning of blame, culminating in an amazing scene where ms. Dorval has had enough and cuts down to size a smug headmaster over a phone line with a dazzlingly funny tirade. Yes, slight and juvenile this may definitely be, but there is a real poignancy at the heart of mr. Dolan's debut feature that suggests there's definitely a talent at work here, even if one that isn't yet fully harnessed.

Starring Anne Dorval, Xavier Dolan; François Arnaud, Suzanne Clément; Patricia Tulasne, Niels Schneider; and Monique Spaziani.
     Directed and written by mr. Dolan; produced by mr. Dolan, Daniel Morin, Carole Mondello; music by Nicholas Savard-L'Herbier; director of photography (Technicolor processing), Stéphanie Weber-Biron; art director, Anette Belley; costume designer, Nicole Pelletier; film editor, Hélène Girard.
     A Mifilifilms production with the financial participation of SODEC. (Canadian distributor, K-Films Amérique. World sales, Rezo Films.)
     Screened: DVD, Lisbon, June 9th 2011. 


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