by Richard Gould
Xavier Dolan’s prize-winning French-Canadian feature MOMMY feels epic in scale, but its setting is suburban and intimate. Over the course of 138 minutes, spent mostly in rooms with a mother and her 15-year-old son, human feelings are set free to range and wander, and they run the gamut here. Anne Dorval stars as the widowed mother to a highly volatile son, Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), who’s just been expelled from reform school for setting a fire. Landed together again in their Quebec apartment at just the moment she finds herself jobless, mother and son bend to accommodate one another – Steve, we discover, has loads of charm to balance his explosive outbursts, and mother Diane works her old publishing contacts to bring in some money. But the boy is a powder keg even on the best of days, and on worse ones nothing is safe around him. A neighbor reaches out, sensing trouble: Kyla (Suzanne Clément) is speech-impaired, vulnerable to a fault and carrying a whiff of mystery about her. Her growing time among them has an uncertain meaning for the family. Will Steve be able to keep it together long enough to stay out of an institution? Bold storytelling here – filmed in an unconventional 1:1 box format with borders–and confirmation of the old saw that a mother’s love contains every other kind of love within it.