The Daily Gamecock

Xavier Dolan examines taboo territory with 'Mommy'


Xavier Dolan has shocked and captivated the world with expertly crafted films that address the complex relationships between mothers and sons. The 25-year-old actor and director from Québec first grabbed the attention of the film industry in 2009 with his semibiographical film, “I Killed My Mother,” which told the story of a young homosexual boy at odds with his mom. Dolan went on to produce four more films, including “Laurence Anyways” and “Tom at the Farm,” before he released “Mommy,” the foreign film that pulled at the heart strings of audiences worldwide. 

The winner of the 2014 Cannes Jury Award and nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, “Mommy” is a breathtaking and gritty expression of the difficult decisions that come when a dysfunctional mother and her violent son must rely on each other for survival. Anne Dorval stars as Diane "Die" Deprés, the widowed mother of Steve O'Connor Deprés (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), a violent 15-year-old boy diagnosed with ADHD after his father’s death. In the beginning, Die chooses to deinstitutionalize her son after it is recommended that he be transferred to a more restrictive juvenile detention center because he set fire to the institution’s cafeteria and injured another boy. Die must deal with raising Steve on her own while protecting herself from his violent outbursts. When it seems like there is no hope for the two, a mysterious neighbor, Kyla (Suzanne Clément), gives Die and Steve a glimpse of the happiness and peace that they never thought possible.  

The language of the film is captivating. Spoken in Quebecois and dense with slang and cuss words, even native French speakers will need subtitles. Die and Steve’s language and the context of their conversations are juxtaposed with the language of Kyla, the more sophisticated and inconspicuous neighbor. The mother and son are united by blood, language and being outcasts of society. 

At 25 years old, Dolan has accomplished more than can be expected of any young director, but he is, above all, an actor. In an interview with Huffington Post, Dolan said that his approach to film making is formed through a prism of acting.

“This is what motivates every move, every reaction,” he said. “It is becoming harder and harder to think of a future where I will solely direct, and I won’t ever, because it’s never going to happen.” 

Fans can be on the lookout for the release of Dolan’s next film and first English-speaking piece, “The Life and Death of John F. Donavan,” staring Jessica Chastain from “Zero Dark Thirty” and Kit Harington from “Game of Thrones” in 2016.