Mommy (2014)

8.1/10 by 401 users

A peculiar neighbor offers hope to a recent widow who is struggling to raise a teenager who is unpredictable and, sometimes, violent.

Release Date:May 22, 2014
Production Company:Téléfilm Canada, Super Écran, SODEC, Metafilms
Production Countries:Canada
Director:Xavier Dolan
Casts:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Plot Keywords:quebec, dysfunctional family, single mother, mother son relationship, behavioral disorders
  • A unique cinematic experience
    September 2, 2016
    The movie 'Mommy' written and directed by Xavier Dolan takes place in an alternate version of Canada where any parent has the option to rid themselves of their troublesome children by sending them to an institution. One of the movies main characters Diane Després finds herself in exactly that situation when her son Steve who has ADHD gets out of a youth detention center. Immediately Diane is presented with the option to send Steve away, but his undying love for his mother paired with her own stubbornness and pride stops her from making such a drastic decision. Right from the start this unique family seems to be heading into a disaster but things change when a mysterious neighbour inserts herself into the lives of Diana and Steve.
    The concept of a mother struggling with a troublesome child is not all that unique, and even though this movie has quite a few interesting story elements up its sleeve, at its core it still is a film about a dysfunctional family that has been told many times before. That is not to say that this movie is as mundane as possible since the manner the story is presented in is anything but generic. Characters are extremely well defined and never seem to say or make any decisions which one could consider inconsistent with their usual behavior. The exposition necessary to set up these characters is masterfully woven into the dialogue. The movie never really goes out of its way to tell the viewer something about the characters and instead lets it happen naturally throughout its runtime.
    What makes the characters even better are the amazing actors portraying them. The actress Anna Dorval does an excellent job at showing the human side of Diane. Often times when her character is either laughing or crying it comes off as genuine so genuine in fact that it is not hard to forget that you're watching a movie and not a documentary. Even when her character is not speaking it is quite clear that internally she is struggling with the decision to send her son away in order to live a normal life. This struggle also resonates within the viewer via Antione-Olivier Pilon's portrayal of Steve. There is always a noticeable sense of built up frustration and when his violent nature paired with his ADHD sends him on a tantrum his anger seems real and almost scary at times. Afterwards there is always a small sense of regret when he sees the fear he induced into his mother. The mysterious neighbour Kyla is not as on the forefront as Steve or Diane as she is more of an introvert. That is not to say that this character is very forgetful as Suzanne Clément, the actress behind Kyla, masterfully shows that there is more to her character than first meets the eye. Every performance on its own was very good, but what's even better is the way the director shows the relationship they have with one another. As a family, albeit a dysfunctional one, Steve and Diane really come off as one that probably exists somewhere in this world and the interplay between them and Kyla is also very believable.
    Almost the entire movie is filmed with an aspect ratio of 1:1. Characters are literally locked up in a little box in the same way as they are locked up in a lifestyle they cannot get out of. Instead of it being a gimmick this feature almost comes off as its own character. Because of this small frame in a lot of scenes there really is only one character that appears on the screen at any given time. This really puts the emotions being portrayed at the forefront and further enhances the already great acting performances. As a viewer the small frame made me feel as if I myself was cramped into a little box. When things are looking up for Steve and Diane the frame widens and when the characters finally get their breath of fresh air the viewer experiences the same as they are finally able to escape from that little box they were trapped in. This aspect ratio does have its side effects though as it comes at the cost of the quality of some of the set-up shots. Some were still fairly well done however, but others probably would have turned out a lot better if it had been done in a regular aspect ratio. This is just a minor thing though as it really does not matter in the grand scheme of things.
    What the movie also does not do well is the pace in which the story is told. The movie slows down tremendously just halfway through its runtime and again just before it reaches its ending point. These moments don't last long however as they are over just before the viewer would lose interest but the movie in its entirety would probably have benefited a lot if a good twenty minutes was scraped of its 139 minute runtime. All in all 'Mommy' is an extremely solid movie with great acting performances at its forefront. Xavier Dolan's incredible use of the aspect ratio provides a unique cinematic experience that is absolutely worth the watch.
    My rating: 8/10