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mommt2Released: 20th March 2015

Directed By: Xavier Dolan

Starring: Anne Dorval, Antoine Oliver

Certificate: 15

Xavier Dolan turned 26 recently. What makes Mommy his fifth feature film such a phenomenal achievement is not that it is a brilliant movie for a 26 year old to have made, but that it is a brilliant movie full stop.

Mommy is the account of Die, a single mother living in Quebec attempting to raise her troubled child Steve all on her own. Steve, a lovable but challenging child suffers from ADHD and is prone to violent outbursts, at the start of the film we see him being forced to leave a hospital that was taking care of him due to him having burned down the kitchen and injured another child in the process.

Steve is nearing 16 and his mother realises that if she can’t help get him on the straight and narrow he will soon be facing life in a juvenile detention centre. With this very real threat looming over them Die decides to home school Steve in the hope that she will be able to give him a chance to make something of himself. The two then begin to form an unlikely trio with a teacher, Kyla who lives across the road.

The relationship between the central pair is what makes Mommy such a force to be reckoned with. Anne Dorval and Antoine Olivier Pilon, both of whom have worked with Dolan in the past take on the roles and give career best performances. Pilon is a revelation; switching between a psychotic scowl and a cheeky, lovable smile at the drop of a hat, perfectly capturing the unpredictable nature of his condition whilst Dorval’s performance is one of raw emotion, her explosive outbursts are a joy to watch.

The film is undoubtedly at its strongest when the pair come to loggerheads. One scene early on sees the ongoing struggle turn violent and the visceral impact of the encounter is difficult to shake off, setting the tone for the rest of the movie. The film often explodes with emotion; I laughed out loud at least four times and found myself getting choked up on more than one occasion.

Much has been said about the aspect ratio of the movie but rest assured this is no lazy gimmick. Dolan changes the ratio of the screen to match the emotions being played out on screen; the claustrophobic 5:4 ratio used for the majority of the film perfectly captures the emotional intensity of the film, leaving the audience gasping for breath as the mood intensifies scene by scene. When Steve finally opens the screen out one can’t help but let out a sigh of relief, the boxed in surroundings of this world finally opening out for air.

What Dolan has achieved with Mommy is nothing short of breath taking- his film is not one that panders to contrivance, or feels the need to wrap anything up in cotton wool; it is slice of life cinema at its most powerful and unforgiving. Featuring two brilliant central performances and a script that is full of both humour and sorrow Mommy is one of the best films released in the UK so far this year.

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