Canada’s entry into the foreign film category for the Oscars this year, “Mommy” won the prestigious Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival last May and its 27-year-old director – yes, Xavier Dolan is practically a kid! – won the directorial prize. At today’s Cinema Society I could see why the film has been garnering raves. It’s riveting. Timely too. And beautifully acted by Anne Dorval.
A French language film, it’s the story of Diane, a widowed single mother who’s living day to day cleaning houses, doing odd jobs, desperately trying to make ends meet even as she’s struggling to care for her son, who’s a handful to say the least. He’s been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and becomes violent – scarily so – with seemingly little provocation. We meet mother and son as she’s picking him up from yet another juvenile facility from which he’s been kicked out, this time for setting the cafeteria on fire and injuring another boy.
Diane wants to keep him at home and does she ever try. She gets help from a neighbor with psychological problems of her own, but in the end……Well, I won’t spoil the end. But the movie begins by telling us that Canada has passed a healthcare law stating that a parent can commit a child without his or her consent.
As I said, the acting is truly superb. Dorval is a force of nature as Diane, who drinks and smokes too much, yells and screams and creates drama even without her unstable son. The cinematography is interesting too as director Dolan presents some of the film in square boxes, as when the characters are feeling hemmed in and troubled, and in wide screen when they’re liberated.
The story is a brave one – how many other films would dare to take on this subject? – and made me think of young men like Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza and his mother. What do you do with a son like that? A thorny issue indeed and a very good film.