*The last paragraph expresses short analysis* Trust me, I didn't plan for this to fall on Mother's Day as I saw this film last week. It was meant to be though. This review was destined for today. I would be remiss if I didn't say what's on my mind: I love you, Mom. So this is for you, the light bringer and sanity keeper of our family
Mommy is, believe it or not, a tale of a mommy. That is to say, it is a tale of a mom and her son. Like all mother son relationships there can be conflict along with affection. None more so than here, as Mommy shows the darker side of parenthood. The gist of this french story is that a single mother named Diane/"Die" is desperately trying to raise her violent, rebellious teen Steve the best she can. She is determined to strive for the best, but is woefully underachieving. Then, one fateful day, she meets a woman by the name of Kyla. I won't tell you what happen. What I can say, is that the results is the best cinema we have seen in 2015.
What makes this film different? Why is it worth seeing? I have been struggling with that question myself, as there is nothing spectacularly original with Mommy - except there is, but there isn't, but there is! Let me explain. The aspect ratio (eg. wide screen/full screen) in the film is fascinating to say the least. It changes drastically in the picture in a way that is intimate and utterly creative. The aspect ratio adjusts to show confining, claustrophobic mindsets as their characters drown in their struggles. When they finally come up for air, the it shifts to show a broadened, fresh perspective of the world. I know that might not sound like much to the casual moviegoer; but this form of creativity is almost never used. It is revolutionary to showcase cinema in this form; and to do it in a way that actually makes sense and is emotionally evocative as well is so dang impressive.
Of course this can't be all. What truly make the film is the actors. They bring to the table deliciously raw and utterly believable performances. Everyone just brought their A-Game and then some. First off is "Die", played by Anne Dorval. She was born for this role. As the "Die" she is completely able to deliver the struggle and warmth of single parent. Every scene she is in, she brings a light, charming, care free side while simultaneously hinting an unmistakable darker element as well. You can tell when she is trying to hide her fear, but she doesn't throw it in your face as a lesser actor would. It is crawling slowly out, dying to make its dirtier self to the surface.
One who has no problem brining his dirtier self to the surface - or so it seems - is her son Steve played by Antoine-Oliver Pilon. He is the hyperactive, rambunctious one who doesn't know when to quit. That is to say, he is volatile at best. Though, there is an undeniable charm and sweetness to him (much like his Mother), that keeps us from completely detesting him as a character. Instead we are lead down a road to root for this kid, who others deem as a lost cause.
The third element - the one the film could not live with out - is Kyla played by Suzanne Clément . She seemingly appears to be a fish out of water in their environment, and in a real way she is; but she is the perfect puzzle piece to squeeze out as much drama from Mommy as possible. Suzanne Clément whole heartedly dives into a meek, apparently shy character who has loads more rawness and intensity to her than ever would be expected. Her tenderness and gravitas is probably the best out of the three, and once again show that just because you haven't heard of someone doesn't mean they can't compete with the best in the world.
Another component Mommy knows how to do right is use the characters to full effect. A lot of the times in film we are given the bare minimum of great acting moments simply because the actors don't have the range to pull off something special. Then you'll have the other end of the spectrum (à la Theory of Everything), where all they'll do is throw actors in situations to show off acting chops without truly adding anything to the story. This is not the case with Mommy, as each moment builds towards the next to showcase the best acting of the year. Much, if not all of comes from the excellent writing. There is a faith in the script and from the director Xavier Dolan to let the character have their moments without compromising the integrity of the story.
While the story is cohesive and flows well enough on its own, I wouldn't be lying if I said that sometimes the film is a little to slow for its own good. Though, who really cares if the pacing isn't perfectly perfect perfection. In the end we are given such an evocative piece of cinema that it is difficult to keep your eyes off the screen. Sure, if you can't handle reading subtitles, this film isn't for you. I also would advise against expecting the story to be utterly mind-blowing or inventive. It treads familiar territory, plain and simple. Yes, it still maintains its glimpse of originality, but there's not really anything here we haven't seen before. That is not why the film is great though. What elevates this film above all others is its the bloody brilliant acting and its revolutionary take on aspect ratio. Again, Mommy isn't for everyone, but I love her all the same.
Personal Preference: 4/5
Critical Analysis: 4.75/5