★★★★★ | Mommy

When Diana ‘Die’ Despres reacts quite violently after she crashes her car on the way to collect Steve her troubled teenage son from the special care facility after he set fire to the cafeteria, it’s initially not clear who is the craziest one out of the pair of them. However, life with Steve will be no picnic for his widowed mother after the two of them traipses back on the bus to the latest rental apartment in the suburbs that they now call home.

Steve may look like an angel with his blond hair and blue eyes but he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder which gives him extreme mood swings. They include many violent angry outbursts which then, without warning, suddenly change into some almost inappropriate ‘kiss and makeup’ sessions with his mother. Die seems to spend most of her time pleading and cajoling with her son who she is obviously very afraid of, but then again she too can be pretty frightening in her own right. Despite their traumatic daily life together she clings to her son even though she craves her freedom and so when a neighbour flirts with her she is reluctant to take it one step further in case it antagonises Steve more.

They do however let someone else into their lives in the shape of their rather mousy neighbour Kyle. She has plenty of her own issues to deal, with most of which manifest in her rather mysterious stutter that greatly inhibits her ability to express herself. Kyle, an ex-school teacher, takes on the thankless task of trying to tutor Steve, and both he and his mother are desperate to make her their only friend which at first is something that she seems to welcome too.

With one unpredictable scene after another, it soon becomes clear that no matter how strong and fiercely independent Die is, she is simply overwhelmed with trying to deal with this petulant head-strong unbalanced teenager. Love is just simply not enough.

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This remarkable and deeply disturbing film is the fifth from 25-year-old Canadian Wunderkind filmmaker Xavier Dolan and in a way he is revisiting a theme of his debut movie I Killed My Mother. This time however instead of it being about a son who felt completely misunderstood by his mother, the lack of misunderstanding seems to go both ways. It’s extremely raw, very heartbreaking, completely original and deeply personal as it simply has to be another of Dolan’s semi-autobiographical stories. What is especially effective is that despite all the melodrama he infuses it with some brilliant touches of humour which don’t just lighten the pace but make it really quite funny at times.

It reunites him with his movie mother the dynamic Canadian actress Anne Dorval who, as the lynch pin for this intense drama, is manically mesmerising. She like Suzanne Clement who plays Kyle are stellar regulars of Dolan’s films and their performances (like the movies themselves) keep getting better every time around. Young Antoine-Olivier Pilon inhabits the often uncomfortable skin of the deeply disturbed Steve quite brilliantly too.

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The consummate Dolan’s hands, as usual, are not just restricted to writing and directing but are all over the movie from the editing to the soundtrack. He truly is a renaissance filmmaker and one that is seemingly maturing along with his movies which frankly get better and better. Multi-award winners … this one picked up a Jury Award at The Cannes Film Festival and then a César Award (French Oscar) for Best Foreign Film, but despite all this acclaim, Dolan’s movies have yet to make any significant breakthrough at the Box Office. This, however, may just be the one to give him the success that his movies so deserve.

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