Made by that wunderkind Xavier Dolan when he was 25 this film is a forceful, violent and intense look at the troubled (that’s putting it mildly) relationship between a mother and her psychotic son. The film opens with a car accident, in fact watching this movie was for me like watching an accident, I couldn’t stop looking but I also wanted to flee the theatre that’s how difficult I found this film.
Anyway besides the car accident the mommy of the title is off to get her very troubled teenage son Steve (a terrific performance by Antoine-Olivier Pilon) from a state care home where he is being thrown out for a cafeteria fire he caused including the terrible burning of a fellow teen. All of this is not shown, and we soon get to met Steve who as I said is violent and scary, sure he’s cute as a button with his pouty lips, and blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes, but he’s a ticking time bomb set to go off at the slightest provocation.
Mommy played by Dolan regular the superb Anne Dorval is also trouble, troubled and difficult. Hostile and brash (she just got fired from her job) she is trying to hold things together as best she can while living in a small cluttered house somewhere in suburban Canada. Listen these are not bad people, and part of the clutter is made up of their messy lives that are constantly heartbreaking to each other and to the audience.
There are several violent outbursts from Steve mostly directed to his hapless mommy that are embarrassing to watch and made me gasp thats how intimate and intense they are. Into this duo of damage come their sweet and caring across the street neighbor who also comes with lots of luggage including a stutter and the loss of her high school teaching job along with a teetering on the edge marriage. The neighbor Kyla played to perfection by Suzanne Clement is taken in my Steve’s charm and good looks and agrees to help with his home schooling, which is no easy task and is also filled with bursts of violence and anger.
This is the film that won Dolan the Cannes jury prize last year that he shared with Godard, and I’ve been impressed and moved by his previous films all of which tackle themes and stories that are sometimes autobiographical usually long and always intense. In this film Dolan has used a square 1:1 aspect ratio which creates a vivid claustrophobic feeling and a loud sense of dread, but he sometimes opens the film up to a standard aspect ratio usually when the trio is experiencing something close to happiness which is not very often. Dysfunctional, grim and sad with very little hope, this is also a spectacular tactile small work of art made by one of the most gifted filmmakers working today, and that he is only 25 is truly remarkable.