I found a lot of negative reviews about this film. The review mostly discusses the characteristics of directors in Hollywood rather than the movie. It’s almost enough to see how writing a film review cannot be separated from the director or the film. When they make a great movie, critics encourage these kinds of people to not exist in Hollywood. Xavier Dolan is one of them besides being 25 years old when directing this film. Most of his films became one of the targets of film festivals including Cannes. And “Mommy” is one of the astonishing works ever put on screen. It portrayed a hyperactive illness character into one of the dazzle performances as well.
Dolan had long stepped foot in Hollywood before he won the Jury Prize in Cannes, he directed many films. “I Killed My Mother”, “Heartbeats”, “Anyways”, and “Tom at the Farm” are his notable works. Mostly in all of his works, he always puts a theme about mother. And after he directed films about such a theme, he came to “Mommy” with a more self-aware title. It tells about Diane (Anne Dorval), a tattooed-widow but also cool at the same time. The story focuses on the struggle of a mother in caring for her violence teen son, Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon).
Steve is a guy you don’t want to deal with. But, he is the most vulnerable kid you have ever seen. He isn’t a nightmare, to begin with, because what the mother is trying to face is his son’s mental illness. Diane, or Die, tried to save him as much as possible. But, she always fell into the kid’s tiny hands because of his behavior. With the 1:1 aspect ratio which illustrates the kid’s psychology, hope begins to emerge when she has a guest. After meeting Kyla (Suzanne Clément), the stammering teacher, she tries to do homeschool for Steve.
“Mommy” is a hard movie to try to pass the sequence one by one. It’s a hard experience but at the same time one of the astounding yet grief films ever. Films like this usually end up dull without enough pay-offs. This movie isn’t a film like that. It’s a roller coaster. Every second, you feel the breath, emotion, frustration, and claustrophobic. With a wrenching characterization thanks to the performance, Dolan tries to hold your breath second by second. You are very difficult to keep it. It’s a loud one because you feel how these characters feel.
Steve’s characteristic is complex because what you get first is you misjudge it. He is violence, simply put. But, he is just a kid and so hard to get social to other people. He shows his feelings excessively. When he gets angry, he overdoes it. When he likes, he’s too much. His love for his mother is also so excessive. It makes her have to deal with the inner conflict out of themselves every day. Dolan keeps these characters from playing such gimmicks. But, he always keeps the momentum and pressure so you keep pressing it. At the same time, it’s very easy to sympathize with the protagonist.
The chemistry between the kid and mother, Dorval and Pilon, is interesting. They are like two guys without any family relations at all. They are different from families in general because they feel like a couple. Dorval and Pilon have many sequences involving much comical comedy between the two. Although the movie has a lot of screaming with over-the-top-notch performance, the movie leaves ambiguously with relentless violence. Sometimes, you shocked because you never expect such a moment. However, some of them play in a dream-like sequence, emphasizing the moment what if the ending ends happily.
Pilon is a gem in this one. He can turn to anything but has two different sides of the coin. On the first side of the coin, he is a man, handsome, and cool. However, on the other side of the coin, he is just a baby who isn’t ready to live alone. Die plays a woman with a dress like a chick emo girl from the 20s. On the other hand, she struggled to find work. After getting one, there’s always a problem with her son who is still not ready to live alone. The chemistry between Kyla and the couple is sometimes funny and heartbreaking as well. There is a powerful moment when you know how these characters went through so much together.
“Mommy” is a magnificent tale about mother and son. Speaking of cinematography, you will never know if the aspect ratio distracted you. The ratio is a 1:1 square. It plays not because of just a gimmick but it’s portraying the state of the protagonist’s psychology. It has so much distraction especially the subject matter. But, there is a sequence where the ratio change. One moment when it comes to the transition is gorgeous. I never expected that it would happen. The contrast between formalism, content, quality, and characters gives a quick impact. It gives explanatory why everything starts in the first place.
“Mommy” is seriously an out-of-control emotionally roller coaster experience by Xavier Dolan. The movie gives you an “explosive” you never get in most action or blockbuster movies. It tackles the subject matter well yet a deep personal thought-provoking movie. For a drama like this, you don’t expect an ambiguity ending. But, the results give your entire chill of how movies are diverse and diverse. It means that each person has a different story. This movie is one of them.
4.5 out of 5 stars.