ⓘ Mommy (2014 film)

                                     

ⓘ Mommy (2014 film)

Mommy is a 2014 Canadian drama film written and directed by Xavier Dolan and starring Anne Dorval, Antoine Olivier Pilon, and Suzanne Clement. The story concerns a mother with a sometimes-violent teenage son, struggling to control his behaviour in a hypothetical future in which parents have the legal option to commit troubled youth to public hospitals.

The story focuses on mother–son relationships, a reoccurring theme in Dolans work, and also marks his fourth collaboration with Dorval and his third with Clement. Inspiration for this particular story was drawn from Dolans discovery of Pilon and the music of Ludovico Einaudi. It was shot in Quebec in an unconventional 1:1 aspect ratio.

The film debuted at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize. It subsequently became a critical and financial success, grossing over $13 million worldwide. Mommy went on to win numerous other awards, among them nine Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Motion Picture.

                                     

1. Plot

In a fictional outcome for the 2015 Canadian federal election, a political party comes to power and establishes a law called S-14, allowing parents of troubled children and limited finances to place their children in hospitals, without regard for fundamental justice.

After the law is passed, Diane "Die" Despres, a widowed mother and 46-year-old journalist, picks up her son Steve, who has ADHD with violent tendencies, from an institution. Steve has started a fire at the institution, in which another youth was injured. Die brings Steve to their new home in Saint-Hubert and struggles to care for him under financial distress. He gives her a cart full of groceries and a necklace reading "Mommy", which she suspects that he has stolen. Enraged by the accusation, Steve begins choking her, and she defends herself by hitting him with a glass frame. Whilst chaos ensues Kyla, a neighbour and teacher on sabbatical, shows up to tend to their wounds.

Kyla, who is dealing with a stuttering problem, begins to tutor Steve. After a disastrous tutoring session where Steve berates Kyla she snaps. After the confrontation Steve mellows and indicates he is glad to know her and respects her wishes not to call her "babe". Although the three have bonded, Die is served papers by the parents of the injured boy indicating she and Steve are being sued for the injuries caused by his fire.

Die finds a lawyer willing to help them and the three of them go out for the evening for something to eat. They end up at a karaoke bar, where Steve is increasingly agitated by the atmosphere and what he sees as his mother, Dies sexual interest in the lawyer. Steve decides to sing, but is taunted by the audience, leading to a fight. Steve, Die and their lawyer argue, ending with Die slapping the lawyer for slapping Steve, which drives the lawyer away.

Die continues to try and help her son and rebuild their lives, but while out shopping, with Steve and Kyla, Steve disappears and slits his wrist. He survives and a little later Die finds herself reflecting on all the dreams she had for her son to live a fulfilled happy life. She finally drives to a hospital to commit him under S-14; Steve angrily resists, and she regrets the decision when she sees the officials use violence and tasers to subdue him, but there is nothing she can legally do.

Kyla announces she is moving to Toronto and Die encourages her and expresses hope for Steve, but after Kyla leaves her alone in the house Die is shown to be extremely distressed at how things are resurfacing. Back at the hospital, Steve is being unstrapped from the straight-jacket by officials. Immediately after the straps are removed, Steve flees towards a large window.

                                     

2. Cast

  • Suzanne Clement as Kyla
  • Steven Chevrin as older Steve
  • Patrick Huard as Paul Beliveau
  • Anne Dorval as Diane "Die" Despres
  • Antoine Olivier Pilon as Steve Despres
  • Alexandre Goyette as Patrick
                                     

3.1. Production Development

Director Xavier Dolan wrote the screenplay, though he said at the time he had never known a person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or the same behavioural disorders that the character Steve exhibits. However, Dolan said his own mother is an inspiration for his writing.

With Dolan acknowledging mother-son relationships have always been an underlying theme in his work, the specific idea for Mommy came about after directing Antoine Olivier Pilon in the music video for "College Boy" by Indochine, finding him to be a great actor. Inspired by another song, "Experience" by Ludovico Einaudi, he wrote a scene about a mother fantasizing about a future with her son that will never come to be, and wrote a story around it. Dolan stated it was important to show how unpredictable mental illness can be in a home. The concept of the S-14 law was inspired by an article he had read about a mother who used a law to transfer custody of a child to the state, although in an interview with Le Devoir, Dolan could not recall which country this happened in.



                                     

3.2. Production Filming

Mommy was filmed in Longueuil, Quebec. Dolan said that when filming, the actors and crew were often rewriting their lines. In casting actresses Anne Dorval and Suzanne Clement, whom Dolan had worked with before, he assigned them roles that he felt were the opposite of what each had previously played.

The film was shot with a handheld camera, in a 1:1 aspect ratio, although most modern films are shot in 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 aspect ratios. On the unusual aspect ratio, Xavier Dolan said, "I know a lot of people are saying, Oh, 1:1, how pretentious. But for me, it seems a more humble and private format, a little more fitting to these lives were diving into. Cinemascope would have been extremely pretentious and incompatible for Mommy. To try to get in that apartment and film these people in that aspect ratio would have been unseemly." He also said cinematographer Andre Turpin had long wanted to experiment with the format. Dolan denied the ratio was meant to invoke the website Instagram, emphasizing this is the original aspect ratio in film history.

                                     

4. Release

The film premiered on 22 May 2014, at the Cannes Film Festival, concluding with a 13-minute standing ovation. The film opened in Montreal on 8 September, and in Toronto on 3 October. In France, the film was distributed by Diaphana Films, with associate company agnes b. selling Mommy necklaces to promote the film. The films U.S. distributor Roadside Attractions waited until 2015 for its release.

The film became available on the U.K. Netflix in 2016, with Dolan publicly criticizing the company for altering the unconventional aspect ratio and demanding, "Take it as it is, or remove it." Netflix corrected the ratio hours later.

                                     

5.1. Reception Box office

On its opening weekend in Quebec, the film grossed $471.902. Mommy was Dolans first film to achieve success at the box office, grossing over $3.5 million domestically in 2014, becoming the highest-selling film in Quebec for 2014. In Canada alone, it reached the $2 million gross on 16 October.

According to the Montreal Gazette, over one million people went to see the film in France. The film ended its run on 19 March 2015 after making $3.5 million in North America and $9.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $13.1 million.



                                     

5.2. Reception Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 89%, with an average score of 7.88/10 based on 127 reviews; the sites consensus states: "As challenging as it is rewarding, Mommy finds writer-director Xavier Dolan taking another impressive step forward". On Metacritic, the film holds an average score of 74, based on 34 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews" in accordance with the websites standards.

In Canada, David Berry of the National Post gave the film four stars, writing, "As a movie, Mommy is a very similar thing to its namesake jewellery, a flashy, scary, gorgeous little piece of home, a shiny bauble that still manages to hang very close to the heart". Brendan Kelly of the Montreal Gazette gave it five out of five stars, calling it "the absurdly prolific young auteur’s best film yet" and "an ode to the strength of tough working-class single mothers everywhere", and praising Anne Dorval as "extraordinary". Brian D. Johnson of Macleans credited Dorval for an award-worthy "powerhouse performance". Johnson saw Mommy as more mature than Dolans previous I Killed My Mother, writing "the tables are turned" in writing the film from the mothers perspective. Peter Howell of the Toronto Star gave the film four stars, saying its smartphone-style picture made it timely and concluding it was "one of the best movies of the year, period". Liam Lacey at The Globe and Mail gave the film three stars, calling the introductory information about S-14 "clumsy", but added "What makes the flaws forgivable is Dolans love of his characters".

On 21 May 2014, Mommy received a four-star rating from The Guardian reviewer Peter Bradshaw, who described the film as "a splashy, transgressive treat, from trailer-trash chat to unexpected sex and surprising emotional depth". Following Dolans receipt of the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Guardian writer Xan Brooks introduced the film as "a boisterous Oedipal comedy". Peter Debruge of Variety called it "A funny, heartbreaking and, above all, original work". Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times wrote the film "feels like nothing less than Dolans magnum opus, for the time being at least". Sandra Hall of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote that while she initially found there was "too much noise, too many emotional eruptions and too many tone-deaf subtitles", she found Pilon and Dorvals performances to be "remarkable". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three and a half stars, calling it rattling. The Wall Street Journal s Joe Morgenstern, while finding the acting "powerful", found fault in the aspect ratio. Richard Brody of The New Yorker panned the film, saying the depiction of Steve "has no basis in psychology; rather, it appears as Dolans own pseudo-transgressive artistic tantrum".



                                     

5.3. Reception Accolades

The film was selected to compete for the Palme dOr in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize. The film also won nine awards at the 3rd Canadian Screen Awards in 2015, including Best Motion Picture and 10 awards at the 17th Jutra Awards, including Best Film. It was also Best Foreign Film at the 40th Cesar Awards.

Mommy was selected as the Canadian entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, but was not nominated. The film was included in the list of "Canadas Top Ten" feature films of 2014, selected by a panel of filmmakers and industry professionals organized by TIFF.

                                     
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