If there’s any way to summarize a common thread between Xavier Dolan’s films, it must be his ability to portray fascinating characters and capture the intensity of their relationships with each other, the mother-son in I Killed My Mother or the two best friends and the object of their infatuation in Heartbeats. In Laurence Anyways we take a look at a ten year relationship between a pair of lovers, Laurence Alia (Melvil Poupaud) and Fred Belair (Suzanne Clément) as their relationship must face a huge turmoil, triggered by sudden decision of self discovery. A story which spans over a decade and told within 161 minutes in length, let’s take a look upon the journey of these lovers. (SPOILERS ahead)
The movie is told in flashback narrative, as Laurence recounted her journey through the decade in a form of an interview. We heard the start of the interview as the opening credits of the film rolling, and then the camera move, walking down the street as if we are seeing everything from Laurence point of view. The people stared and held their gaze, sometimes looking confuse, sometimes downright judgmental, but all give us a feeling of unease and discomfort. These kind of things can be found throughout the film, as Laurence struts down in her heels for the first time in the hallway of his campus, against the same kind of gaze from the students and the faculty members. Even the gaze from the interviewer at the end of the movie leave a very strong impression of finally being recognized and acknowledge. Laurence are constantly being seen by many of these people eyes in their own point of view and opinion.
Laurence emotional turmoil began when we saw her sitting in her class, looking at her female students brushing or playing with their locks, while Laurence put some paperclips on her fingers in lieu of long finger nails. The film follows Laurence emotional transformation instead of focusing on his physical transition. We can sense she gets more discomfort in her skin before her coming out. When she finally found peace in her righteous shell, under make up and heeled pumps, her environment expresses theirs. A subtle portrayal of transphobia crept in on the edges, but Laurence are more concern about the acceptance from her loved ones, maybe her parents, but most of all, her girlfriend Fred.
The other person who endure similar journey to Laurence is Fred. Upon hearing Laurence confession, her initial reaction was anger and anguish of betrayal. “Everything I loves about him, he hates about himself”. When Fred overcome her initial reaction, she realized that she love Laurence despite everything. She becomes the most supportive and strong girlfriend, buying Laurence a wig, dressing her up, putting on get make up, and even stood up for her during an outburst at a cafe (a reminiscent to Dolan debut feature, I Killed My Mother). The outburst was probably one of the strongest moment in the film delivering an intense emotion rolled out in sputtering rants from Fred, a testament to Clement acting as well as Dolan abilities to give his character life through lines of his script.
Even as they grew apart, Fred and Laurence are still drawn together in various moments torn between wanting to reignites their romance despite all the impossibility of it all. They’re each others’ ‘The One That Got Away’ and ‘The One That Could’ve Been’. Later in the Laurence started to portray herself as if paying an homage to Fred, maybe a way to endure and deal with her own broken heart and sorrow, the closest way she could do to be with Fred. The tale of Laurence and Fred is a harrowing story of lost love, a decade long journey to accepting the inevitable outcome. A companion to Laurence own journey to redefine herself outside the realm and limitations of normalcy and categorization. Can love really surpass all boundaries, or are we human must rely on these boxes that compartmentalize everything? Dolan picked out certain moment to highlight using heavily-stylized visual to convey the ongoing turmoil inside his characters. He still need to indulge his need to do the stylistic visual, which i really don’t mind.
Third film at 23 years old, Dolan’s Laurence Anyways competed in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, where Suzanne Clément won the Un Certain Regard Award for Best Actress. While the film did not won in that category, it is the third winner of Queer Palm award, previously won by George Araki’s Kaboom (2010) and Skoonheid (Beauty, 2011). The film won the award for Best Canadian Feature film, it was nominated for Best Picture at 2013 Canadian Screen Award. The film is the recipient for various nominations and wins from film festival across the globe.
Laurence Anyways definitely showcased Dolan improvement from his previous two films. It reached a new level of maturity and subtlety in both visual and substance. While i forever prefer his sophomore feature, Les Amours Imaginaires, i still think Laurence Anyways is a great piece from the young director. …and i’d recommend it to anyone who have the patience to sit through a 161 minute drama film. :)
LAURENCE ANYWAYS (2013)
GENRE Drama, Romance DIRECTOR Xavier Dolan | PRODUCER Xavier Dolan, Gus Van Sant, Nathanaël Karmitz, Lyse Lafontaine | WRITER Xavier Dolan | MUSIC Noia, Sylvain Bassard | CINEMATOGRAPHER Yves Bélanger | EDITOR Xavier Dolan | STUDIO Lyla Films, MK2 Productions | DISTRIBUTOR Breaking Glass Pictures (US), Network Releasing (UK) | COUNTRY Canada | RUNNING TIME 169 minutes | RELEASE May 18, 2012 (Cannes) STARRING Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clément, Nathalie Baye, Monia Chokri