The 2015 Kamloops Film Festival runs March 5 to 14. Check back each week for more reviews.
“A mother doesn’t wake up in the morning not loving her son,” Diane Després said to her son in the film Mommy.
The film is directed by Xavier Dolan and recently won best motion picture at the 2015 Canadian Screen Awards. The film was also Canada’s official submission to the 87th Academy Awards foreign film category.
The strongest theme in Mommy is love. Love comes in a raw and slightly twisted form between Després and her teenage son, Steve, who has ADHD.
After losing his father, Steve’s disorder worsens, prompting outbursts of violence which leaves his mother more disheveled each time. Steve is released to Diane after being institutionalized and together they struggle to make ends meet and get Steve through high school, which takes some help from a neighbour, Kyla, the third major character in the film.
The film’s greatest strength is its gritty and frustrated characters, which are portrayed by talented actors Anne Dorval (Diane), Antoine Olivier Pilon (Steve) and Suzanne Clément (Kyla).
Steve is especially easy to adore as a character. When he’s up, he’s really up, and the world is a beautiful joke to him. His love is abundant, and his realness brings laughter and joy to Diane and Kyla. When he’s down the audience sympathizes with the teenage boy who struggles with the fact he isn’t “normal.”
Another strength of the film is the way it pairs its scenes, happy and sad, with complementary music.
Humour doesn’t play a big role in the film, but it is woven into a few situations. When things have started looking up, Diane walks home on a quiet street with a spring in her step and a full bag of groceries in each hand. When both bags suddenly burst at the same time, sending groceries rolling around on the pavement, Diane just stands there, frozen and staring straight ahead.
The film runs for 139 minutes, and although some scenes are overly long, they are well-edited. They yo-yo from blissful scenes, always bathed in golden light, to darker scenes that use music and editing to build the tension until it bursts.
Although the Kamloops Film Festival website states that the movie is in English and French with English subtitles, don’t be fooled, it is entirely in French. The only English words are some of the profanities, which are numerous, and American products.
If you speak French, there won’t be an issue, but as Mommy is dialogue heavy, reading the subtitles gets tiring. It’s also hard to get the full experience of the film when your eyes must keep going back to read what’s at the bottom of the screen.
Mommy is a powerful film about emotional strain, loneliness and the love that connects us to family and friends. Despite the length and the subtitles, it’s worth watching.
Showing at the Kamloops Film Fest the week of March 11:
Mountain Men – Two Days, One Night – Big News from Grand Rock – What We Do in the Shadows – Winter Sleep – When the Ocean Met the Sky