I Killed My Mother
Original title: j’Ai Tué ma Mère
Release date: July 15, 2009
Directed by: Xavier Dolan
Written by: Xavier Dolan
Cast: Anne Dorval, Xavier Dolan, François Arnaud
Twenty years old with a decent directorial debut? Color me green with envy. Xavier Dolan’s debut feature, j’Ai Tué ma Mère (a.k.a. I Killed My Mother), is what happens when an average writer/actor gets extremely lucky.
j’Ai Tué ma Mère follows Dolan in a semi-autobiographical role as Hubert, a homosexual teenager who has a rocky relationship with his mother. The film focuses on his coming-of-age in a curious way, and his adolescent lifestyle and feelings are explored from start to finish.
Dolan’s film is a good start in terms of direction (and having seen his following film, Les Amours Imaginaries, it’s definitely one that improves), but it’s not particularly great. It’s a lot like watching a training video called “Beginner’s Steps to Almodóvar and Kar-wai” or is that too harsh? It’s very pretty, and the music is really a treat as well, especially when it dives into angsty, semi-narcissistic music video mode. The material within though? Eh.
In all honesty, Dolan is a much better director than he is a writer or actor. Many of the previously mentioned music video like scenes were entirely unnecessary and served only for aesthetic pleasures. There’s even a scene of Hubert and his boyfriend having sex, that while visually appealing, could and should have been totally cut. No matter how gay I am, I don’t care to see two men having sex on screen unless it’s actually important to the story.
We’ve all been angry at our mothers, and we can sure relate to the relationship between Hubert and his mother at times. A line that comes to mind to describe it perfectly is “can’t live with her, can’t live without her.” But the sheer vitriol that spews out of the main character’s mouth at times drags this down a lot. There are a lot of scenes that work, a lot of scenes that don’t, and more than enough scenes that don’t even really need to be there. The mood shifts greatly when switching points of view, as Dolan takes on plenty of scenes in which his mother is the main figure. The scenes in which she is the focus is where the film really flourishes, and had his writing (and acting) for his own character been stronger, this could have worked a whole lot better.
Anne Dorval is the impressive one here, really expressing the emotions that Xavier Dolan is trying to get through in his screenplay. Her character is wholly realistic, which I’ll slightly attribute to some decent character writing, but mostly to some really stunning acting. Her ups and her downs, they all work so well, even when she has that hilarious spray tan on her face. At times you really find yourself relating to this mother more than you could ever relate to the son. When coming to the realization that her son is gay, she really captures exactly what a parent goes through in that moment. It’s rough, it’s raw, and it’s great. And in a monologue she delivers in the latter half, one finds themselves ready to give her a standing ovation for lifting this film to a level it could never dream of without her.
At the end of the day, j’Ai Tué ma Mère is just an average debut with a lot of missteps and one really marvelous performance, that just happened to get a whole lot of praise along the way.
Part of the 2012 LGBT Blogathon.