Your mother’s not the only one, mon ami
I Killed My Mother
The 20-year old actor, director, writer and producer of this debut film deserves the acclaim he’s received thus far. It is an accomplished piece: the script sharp (in more ways than one) and hyper-realistic, the acting naturalistic and passionate, and moments in the photography that suggest either an experienced cinematographer or a Tarantino-esque borrowing of cinematic styles by a much younger hand. (The camerawoman was born in 1976, so it may be fair to assume the latter.) It is also daring in its depiction of teenage homosexual love, and boasts two of the most beautiful young men to grace a film screen for some time (opening up a debate for another time, perhaps).
The story is harrowing, a love-hate tale between mother and son, and necessarily this makes it a difficult watch. It does seem to be largely a series of shouted arguments and expressions of deeply-felt hatred, whether Hubert is criticising his mother’s dress-sense, table manners or method of single-mothering. But just as we might want to step in with “hang on son, give your mother a break” she responds with passive-aggressive frustration, dumping him in the middle of the city to walk home, or leaving him locked out of the house. It’s all a bit tiresome – and in many ways more reminiscent of an abusive “romantic” relationship (one the audience would urge the protagonist to walk out on), than a true representation of familial angst.
And angsty it is. While film-maker and protagonist Xavier Dolan shows serious élan in every aspect of his work, the subject matter is still at heart a typically teenage response to communication difficulties. We may all have been there at one stage (though hopefully not with quite this level of venom) but it doesn’t make for comfortable or enjoyable viewing. I’m only thankful no-one really got killed, so the film didn’t drift into a prison drama – that possibly would have been cause to slit one’s wrists.