aka Gen Y Indie Filmmaker Poster Child
You can't talk about Xavier Dolan's films without mentioning his age. Dolan is 25 and has 5 features under his belt. Features that have been screened at major international film festivals, might I add. Which makes a lot of people wonder if a 40 year old filmmaker were to make the same films - will they receive as much critical praise?
I would think the answer would be definitely not as much, but I won't rain on Dolan's parade here. Because when I watch Mommy the only flaws are ones that all young filmmakers make when we are developing our command of technical and visual craft. But what is extraordinary is his ability for storytelling and emotional honesty that transcends most filmmakers our age.
Take for example, Dolan's choice to use 1:1 aspect ratio with Mommy. When we probed him at the Q and A session about the deeper meanings, the metaphorical implications etc. etc. He simply just told us he thought it would be great to have a claustrophobic sense of space and surroundings created with the 1:1 ratio, there was nothing more to it. People were saying that's it represents our generation now with the phone screens and the instagramming. Nope.
First of all, the film doesn't really have anything to say in depth about technology and social media, so it's a bit of a stretch to string those two themes together. Besides, the main character teenager Steve still uses a flip phone from the early 2000s. It's what Howie described as the intentional fallacy, us as audience members reading too much into what the author's intent was. Dolan's use of the ratio was for a simple reason. Now if the average filmmaker had decided to make a feature film in 1:1 or anything besides the normal cinemascope or widescreen, it could almost immediately be written off as a cheap gimmick. The same feeling of claustrophobia and the character's state of mind could have been achieved with something less disruptive to the standard screen and image - although you could argue that that's what the film is deliberately doing as Steve is a disruptive character.
So is it innovation or novelty? I am still leaning more to the side novelty, I feel like it's something filmmakers are likely to explore when we are still playing with storytelling devices and deciding what is right for the story and genre. Dolan's use of the ratio is neither adequately justified in this film nor innovative (as many films have done it before with better reason to e.g. Oz: The Great and Powerful, No)
But looking past that, the film was one I enjoyed most at the Telluride Film Festival. The relationship between mother and son, and neighbour (almost mother no.2) was beautifully balanced and bittersweet. The characters were entertaining and over the top in a way that still held true emotionally. Most of all it's a film about struggle and pain but was not a downer, there were sweet and liberating moments.
This was one of my favourite scenes: