Unâesuberante giovane mamma vedova, si vede costretta a prendere in custodia a tempo pieno suo figlio, un turbolento quindicenne affetto dalla sindrome da deficit di attenzione. Mentre i due cercano di far quadrare i conti, affrontandosi e discutendo, Kyla, lâoriginale, nuova ragazza del quartiere, offre loro il suo aiuto. Insieme, troveranno un nuovo equilibrio, e tornerĂ la speranza.
A widowed single mother, raising her violent son alone, finds new hope when a mysterious neighbor inserts herself into their household.
Secondo commento critico (a cura di PETER DEBRUGE, www.variety.com)
A FUNNY, HEARTBREAKING AND, ABOVE ALL, ORIGINAL WORK FROM CANADIAN ENFANT TERRIBLE XAVIER DOLAN.
If Canadian director Xavier Dolanâs debut, âI Killed My Mother,â served as the petulant revenge of a misunderstood son upon the single mom who raised him, then his unexpectedly self-effacing fifth feature, âMommy,â acknowledges that perhaps the lack of understanding went both ways. This time, the offscreen director puts himself in his momâs shoes, casting Anne Dorval once again as a strong, independent woman overwhelmed with the task of caring for a teenage tyrant. Itâs uncanny how much Dolanâs style and overall solipsism have evolved in five yearsâ time, resulting in a funny, heartbreaking and, above all, original work â right down to its unusual 1:1 aspect ratio â that feels derivative of no one, not even himself.
Though scarcely known in the States, where his sophomore feature âHeartbeatsâ earned just shy of $600,000, and
âI Killed My Motherâ and the gender-resistant romance âLaurence Anywaysâ received only minor arthouse releases, Dolan exploded on the international festival scene in 2009 with a textbook case of âtherapy through filmmaking.â One can almost imagine Dolan, now 25, wincing as he revisits his bratty, Camera dâOr-winning debut â the way any artist does when confronted with work that seems to have sprung from a different person than he is today.
Thereâs no question that âMommyâ is informed by the same autobiographical elements that inspired âI Killed My Motherâ: the shouty antagonism, the manic codependence and his momâs still-unforgiven decision to send Dolan to boarding school when his antics became too much to bear. Here, the writer-director whips up a social-sci-fi scenario to explain an equivalent form of involuntary institutionalization, where a new Quebec law allows parents to skip the courts and commit problem children directly into state care.
Surely the dilemma
facing recent widow Diana âDieâ Despres (Dorval) would be just as easy to follow â not to mention a smidge less pretentious â without the clunky pre-film chyron explaining the made-up S-14 law. Actually, this intro proves a bit misleading, since the fact that this near-future Quebec society has made the process easy confuses just how difficult it eventually will be for Die to surrender her 15-year-old son, Steve(Antoine Olivier Pilon), to whom she has dedicated everything.
With his blond hair and blue eyes, Steve can look beatific one moment and positively devilish the next, like a freak-forward glimpse of a decade-older Dennis the Menace, stirring up a more provocative, sexually aggressive brand of trouble in his mid-teens. One look at Die and itâs clear where much of his nonconformist spirit comes from: For a woman in her 50s, sheâs an unpredictable force of nature, too, striding through the suburbs in
pole-dancing pumps and painted-on jeans â a look that might be tacky if not played with such conviction by Dorval. Put these two under the same roof, and itâs a wonder the place doesnât spontaneously burst into flames.
As if Die doesnât already have enough on her plate, Delon puts her through a car crash on her way to collect Steve from the special care facility where he set fire to the cafeteria. Within her first few scenes, itâs clear this woman has thick skin and an even thicker accent (so much so that the Cannes screening projected the French-language pic with both French and English subtitles), but isnât quite tough enough to home-school her son as she intends. Lucky for them, their crazy energy attracts the attention of a mousy high-school teacher (âLaurence Anywaysâ co-star Suzanne Clement) living across the street.
Only an actress as compelling as Clement could keep the
introverted, stuttering Kyla from disappearing in the other Despres duoâs shadow. Though Kyla has zoned out with her own family, sheâs drawn to her new neighborsâ supernova dynamic and agrees to help, with disruptive effects on both sides. Like all Dolanâs self-edited films, âMommyâ is easily 50% longer than it needs to be, and yet, between Steveâs constant Touretteâs-like outbursts and his over-the-top professions of love for both women, thereâs never a dull moment.
In a typically impulsive gesture, Dolan decided to shoot his freewheeling meller in a square frame (though the version screened at Cannes actually looked taller than it was wide), pillarboxing the 1:1 image with black bars on either side. However unnatural the viewing experience, those dimensions force us directly into the center of this already over-intimate menage, but come at the expense of some of d.p. Andre Turpinâs most invigorating images â like the revolving shot of
Steve spinning a grocery cart in a strip-mall parking lot to the Counting Crowsâ âColorblind.â
Dolan has played with aspect ratios before, tightening the framing during the suspense sequences of âTom at the Farm,â for example. Twice the borders expand to fill the entire screen here, supplying a bittersweet glimpse into Steveâs future as only his optimistic mother could imagine it â a hopeful sequence that replays in our minds (but not onscreen) during her most demanding scene at the end of the picture.
Life with Steve is no picnic, swinging from violent outbursts to semi-Oedipal kiss-and-make-up sessions, the potentially inappropriate nature of which is canceled out by ample evidence that this mommaâs boy blew the hinges off his closet door long ago. However dangerous their psychologically tangled situation can get, Dolan plays the relationship in bright, high-energy terms, underscoring at least half the filmâs 139-minute running time in mix-CD pop tunes
â the only downer being a humiliating karaoke rendition of Andrea Bocelliâs âVivo per lei.â
So, whereas Dolanâs debut was fueled by pent-up resentment the director obviously needed to get out of his system, âMommyâ demonstrates a newfound appreciation for just how much his mother put up with. Chances are, most of âMommyâsâ eventual audience wonât have seen that earlier film, which borrowed a bit too heavily from other arthouse helmers whose work Dolan may or may not have seen, but whose style had some how trickled down into his technique all the same (perhaps via musicvideos, that great synthesizer of art-film innovation).
Composed of one unpredictable scene after another without the meandering self-indulgence of previous films, âMommyâ feels as if Dolan has deliberately unlearned everything heâs seen onscreen before and embraced a fresh naivete that allows him to seek the most direct, honest and emotional way of communicating any given feeling.
At times, the film ignores narrative altogether, fetishizing one of Dieâs mismatched outfits or delving into a vivid anecdote, a la hilarious box-wine scene. The result is as personal as ever, an ecstatic celebration not only of mothers, but of the two incredible actresses Dolan has adopted as muses along the way.
Nota: Si ringraziano Goodfilms e Laura Poleggi (QuattroZeroQuattro)