Today, a part of me. And i can not mourn. Because they forget all the synonyms of ‘sadness’. Now. All that i can do without you. Is to replace you.
Xavier Dolan fourth flick felt so far removed from his previous works. Going to uncharted territory, Dolan adapted a psychological thriller play by fellow Quebecois playwright, Michel Marc Bouchard. I was a little skeptical when i heard it was adapted from a contemporary play (me think August Osage County left a very bad taste in my mouth). But apparently the end product was the most controlled and commercially viable film Dolan ever made. (I am still waiting to see Mommy, which received positive response by critics at Cannes this year).
Dolan return in front of the camera after his absence in Laurance Anyways (2012) as Tom. Tom travel to the countryside for the funeral of his deceased lover, Guillaume. He soon realised that no one know he was nor they were aware of Guillaume’s sexuality. Decided to follow the lies set up by Guillaume’s brother Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) to protect Guillaume’s mother Agathe (Lise Roy) and the family standing in the community, Tom must play the twisted game set up by Francis while he laments on his lost beloved.
Devoid of his usual collaborators, going to a darker territory of thriller genre and explores the topic of grief, self-hate, and depression, doesn’t mean the film did not feel like a Dolan creation. Like usual, we found his curated musical choice set the tone of the film. As it opens with a hypnotic, French a capella rendition of Michel Legrand’s academy award winning Les Moulins de Mon Coeur (The Windmill of your Mind) by Kathleen Fortei, we are transported to a dairy farm in rural Quebec. Like Tom we were trapped along with him in the riots of subtext and the seemingly infinite length of honey-colored corn fields, as he tried to took the rein on his grieve. Tom were coerced to return to the metaphorical closet by Francis’ malevolence and endured an odd, ‘stockholm syndrome’ induced reality. As he submissively bent into Francis’ dominance, he found himself in a dance of abusive, psycho-sexual relationship (both literally and figuratively) agree to support Francis’ lies about Guillaume’s non-existent girlfriend while injecting bits of his profound memories of his lost love.
The film reminds me of Guiraudie’s L’Inconnu Du Lac, where Franck continue to pursue his relationship with Michel despite the murder performed by Michel that he witnessed. Both ‘victims’ are trying to maintain its illusion (or rather delusion) of an ideals. And just like Guiraudie’s, Dolan maintain the suspense through tight pacing, detailed production and editing process. Pierre-Yves Cardinal is absolutely brilliant in delivering the abrasive and violent, homophobic bully against Xavier Dolan’s Tom. Cardinal character is exceptional, with an alluring air of danger and ambiguity that both intrigues and frightened me, not unlike what Tom would’ve felt. Tom himself is an interesting study of grief, the psychology of victims, and despairs that drove people to self hate. It is a riveting character study wrapped in a thriller genre. Cinematographer André Turpin captures the bleak moody atmosphere through honey and dried corn-husks palette, while the score by Gabriel Yared put an emphasis in building the tension as the story unravel.
Xavier Dolan continues to astound me (and the world) with his 4th (and 5th) film under his belt before he even turned 25, and making me felt like a total slacker with my own life. Tom at a Farm received the prestigious FIPRESCI Award from the International Federation of Film Critics on its debut at 2013 Venice Film Festival. Like always, his works always fascinates and excites me, I just can not wait for whatever the wünderkind gonna do next (and fingers crossed for me having access for Mommy soon!)
TOM Á LA FERME / TOM AT A FARM (2013)
GENRE Drama, Thriller DIRECTOR Xavier Dolan | PRODUCER Xavier Dolan, Nathanaël Karmitz, Charles Gillibert | WRITER Xavier Dolan, Michel Marc Bouchard | MUSIC Gabriel Yared | CINEMATOGRAPHER André Turpin | EDITOR Xavier Dolan | STUDIO MK2, Canal+, Ciné +, Arte France Cinéma | DISTRIBUTOR Entertainment One | COUNTRY Canada | RELEASE September 2, 2013 (Venice) | RUNNING TIME 95 minutes STARRING Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy, Evelyne Brochu