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Mommy

“French-Canadian infant terrible Xavier Dolan grows up, with a powerful film about the ferocity of mother love. At a still-precocious 25, Dolan takes a more mature but endlessly provocative and exhilarating look at the same relationship that lead to his debut film in Mommy. In a somnolent Cannes season, Mommy is precisely the electroshock jolt the festival needed. Dolan’s film is intimate, emotionally choleric, and sensational. Beginning with a car crash and accelerating from there, Mommy administers primal therapy to its viewers and perhaps to Dolan himself.

“As in I Killed My Mother, the embattled mom is played by Anne Dorval. The Dolan surrogate, the charming, troubled teen, is brilliantly assumed by Antoine Olivier Pilon. This time, though, the viewpoint is reversed. Never condemning the son for his explosions, Dolan portrays the mother as a boundless fountain of tough love.

“Widowed for three years, Diane “Die” Després cleans houses and occasionally translates children’s books. Her 15-year-old son Steve, afflicted with ADHD and given to violent outbursts, has started a fire in the school he’s been assigned to. Now Diane is to be Steve’s caregiver and teacher. Their verbal battles would singe the ears of any bickering couple, but at heart there is love: in Steve’s buying Diane a necklace with the word MOMMY, and in Diane’s indefatigable championing of her son.

“They get unexpected help from their neighbor Kyla (Clément), a high-school teacher on leave for depression, who agrees to tutor the boy. She and Diane get along like loving sisters. But Steve hates the idea of sitting still for an education, testing Kyla.

“Missing his late father, and trying to be the man of his house the blond, good-looking Steve naturally resents the lonely lawyer Paul (Patrick Huard) whom Diane befriends. But in a film whose only two females are maternal figures, the prime, primal theme is the love everyone needs, not the sex everyone wants.

“Mommy is a film about right now and always, about any family’s bonds and how the members fight to strengthen or break them. Prizes are irrelevant to a film of suffocating power and surprising warmth. Stripping himself of his stylistic borrowings from other directors, Dolan has found his own urgent voice and visual style. Mommy bursts through the screen with the rough vitality of real people, who love not wisely but too well.” - Mary Corliss, TIME

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