Xavier Dolan’s family dramas are explosive, unrepentant pieces of art that pushes every tensile emotion to its limits. In this view, the script can come off a bit contrived, as we see how hard the writing is trying to invoke a heavy emotional response. It’s over bloated in emotional moments, reaching hard to pull that out of the audience. However, many of these moments resonate because it doesn’t devolve into melodrama. It’s mostly challenged and unacceptable.
Take Antoine’s (Vincent Cassel) character, the father of the lead Louis (Gaspard Ulliel), and one who feels far more resentment towards his son than Louis does towards his life. Louis comes for one last goodbye, feeling some sort of responsibility towards these people, but doesn’t realize the amount of pain he’s caused for him leaving. It’s critical of Louis and is stuck between feeling empathy for him or seeing through to his intense narcissism.
Unlike the others, Antoine has developed more of a fundamental hatred for Louis that’s rooted out of betrayal and love. The others don’t understand his absence in their lives, much like Antoine, but he takes it as far more of an offense. The mix and explosion of a wide range of emotions in small periods of time make this one of Dolan’s most engaging. It’s far less subtle than his other work, but it’s a nice change of pace here that leads to more upfront confrontation.
He has an interpersonal scene with Lea Sydoux and a more disjointed interaction with Marion Cotillard. The story device of only telling the audience the nature of his visit takes away a lot of the drama in these scenes, but does provide an emotional wallop with the conclusion of Louis’s arc.
The rush of emotion with knowing the nature of Louis’ ultimate decision and keeping his family in the dark makes for a thrilling finale. In terms of placing this within the context of Dolan’s filmography, it’s hard to say it’s his most complete work or is even remotely as strong thematically as others. However, it’s emotionally potent, bombastic filmmaking that has its positives and negatives. If anything, watch for an interesting cast playing well off the material.
★★★½ / Out of 5★s (81)