VOD Review - I Killed My Mother

Anne Dorval (left) and Xavier Dolan
in "J'ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother)"
I wrote reviews for French-Canadian Xavier Dolan's two films: Heartbeats (2011), his second feature, and, Laurence Anyways (2013), his third feature. For one reason or another, I wasn't able to see his directorial debut I Killed My Mother. It premiered at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival where it won a few awards. It was so well-received that it became Canada's submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards. It got a limited theatrical release in the United States in 2010. It was apparently re-released in March 2013, but I don't know why. It was recently made available on Netflix Watch Instantly where I was finally able to see it.

Written and directed by the practically teenage filmmaker, Xavier Dolan basically plays himself in this semi-autobiography story of a 16-year-old boy named Hubert Minel in Montreal and his love-hate relationship with his mother Chantel Lemming. The movie is nearly a hour of Hubert yelling and screaming at Chantel because for no real reason he is annoyed with any and everything she does.

Hubert's parents are divorced. Hubert is gay, a fact that is practically hidden from his mother, but Dolan doesn't plumb the depths or uncover the surface of his character to get at why he's so annoyed, why he's so bitter and angry. He comes across mostly as a brat having a series of temper tantrums.

This would have been fine as a character but he doesn't balance it all that well with Chantel's character. There's a hollowness to her that doesn't really allow the audience to understand what her thought patterns are at all. For example, there is a video store incident that made no sense. We see her at a tanning salon, getting pampered. She then has a blow-up scene toward the end where she complains about being stressed or something, but it just doesn't mesh with her getting pampered. Besides Hubert's occasional blow-ups, how is she stressed? She says she is but Dolan doesn't show us.

Dolan loves slow motion and long one-shots with two people, often off-centered in framing. This film lays the groundwork for a style that comes into his next two films and dominate them. His style doesn't overshadow or become incessant here. He just doesn't give us enough analysis of his characters and what he does give is a bipolarity that's a little disconcerting.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 40 mins.


Popular Posts