Mommy is a film I wanted to see from the first moment I saw a clip of it as it had a certain something about it, and I was pleased to learn that certain something was certainly present.
Anne Dorval plays Diane, or ‘Die’ for short. Her ex-husband long since naffed off, she lives her life as a single parent, albeit without her son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon)… until now, since this serial ne’er-do-well is too unruly even for France’s toughest equivalent of Borstal and he’s now back with her, ready to cause her life mostly misery. Circumstances result in her having a sort-of helper in the form of stuttering neighbour Kyla (Suzanne Clément), who seemingly has nothing else better to do with her time, as her husband’s a workaholic, his job taking them from place to place, and then to another place, so she’s never in one spot too long.
There’s tension in spades, and also many humourous moments such as when Steve imitates using his tongue in a certain way, in response to an old woman in the bus stop staring at him disapprovingly because he smokes and swears. And when Die walks in on him in his bedroom… enjoying his own company shall we say, he tells her “Can I jerk off in peace?”, to which she picks up his used tissues, commenting that they’re not guest-friendly and “So get your jizz together and we’ll be in business”. He replies: “Gonna hold my dick when I piss, too?” and she chips back, “If it helps you aim(!)”
There’s also great use of music, including Counting Crows’ Colourblind, and thanks to this film, I now actually *like* Wonderwall by Oasis. I’ve never been able to stomach it, thanks to Liam Gallagher’s horrible, nasal whine – and I’m from Manchester, but they’ve done FAR better songs than that dirge), but following director Xavier Dolan‘s use of it in this film, it now reminds me of this film – as well as a certain moment – and so I say thankyou for helping me tolerate it 🙂
Dolan has chosen to shoot Mommy in a bizarre ratio of approximately 0.56:1. Yes, it’s taller than its width. It’s basically like a typical mobile phone screen’s width. This led to an early amusing moment when steve switches on his CD player, the ratio only allowing the word ‘HELL’ onscreen, before it moves on two seconds later to reveal the full “HELLO” in the greeting, so it has its uses and this sets itself apart from any other film I’ve seen, but it’s not something I’d encourage on a regular basis. It also feels rather claustrophobic at times and with the film’s intense nature, it can be an assault on the senses.
There are two scenes where the ratio is presented in 16:9, but while I could go into detail about those, there is a reason for the change and it’s best left to your discovery, same as the reason for shooting in ‘mobile phone’ ratio.
I don’t want to say too much else about the film because it’s like a road movie, going from A to B, to C, and so on, as the trio form a unique bond. Mommy is also a very powerful piece with a towering performance from Anne Dorval, but there are times when it does navel-gaze a bit, causing it to drag. That said, when it is excellent, it really is excellent.
Finally, one comment which I’ll put in a spoiler tag, so only read if you have seen the film, or are excessively curious.
The film is presented in the ratios as described and in anamorphic widescreen, and the picture is fine, but when you’re normally used to Blu-rays, DVDs look a little soft by comparison, especially on a 50″ plasma screen. The sound is in Dolby Digital 5.1, but only the music, and a nightclub scene (again, for music), really get to make use of the rear speakers. The rest of the time, it’s drama with dialogue and little else.
There are only a mere 12 chapters, the English subtitles are burnt into the print and the menu mixes clips from the film with a piece of its music.
The extras are as follows, and while they seem slim in number, there’s a lot of great stuff to get stuck into here:
- Interviews: There are six clips here, four with Xavier Dolan, three of which are at or prior to Cannes, running 5:17, 5:37 and 2:03, with the fourth being at TIFF – the only English interview on this disc, running 24:55 and is split into two chapters. About halfway through, the last one changes to a Q&A with the audience, but while it’s split into two chapters, the second chapter begins while Dolan is halfway through a sentence.
He talks about how mothers have inspired him to make this and previous films, and that in Mommy, the trio of Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clément and Antoine-Olivier Pilon come together to form the central character of the piece. To say that is not a spoiler – don’t worry, it’s not Society-like merging together – the point is that you can’t have one or two without all three as they are all essential. And during the Q&A, while we don’t get to see the audience members who ask questions, the voice of the last woman to speak – who asked about how he casts her films and started touting for a part – made her sound incredibly hot, so he should definitely cast her!
He also bites his fingernails a lot while on camera. Maybe it’s a nerves thing. But then if I had a film which was in competition in Cannes, *I* would certainly be nervous 🙂
As for the earlier works which he mentions, I haven’t seen those so will definitely have to catch up, especially 2009’s I Killed My Mother, which he references a lot.
Oh, and he also says he reads all of his reviews, so I’m glad he’ll read this one and see me saying: please pair up the stunning Anne Dorval and Suzanne Clément again. Both of them, like me, would be classed as ‘middle-aged’, but unlike me, they are both hotter than the sun.
There’s also interviews with Suzanne Clément (3:04) and Antoine-Olivier Pilon (9:58), but it’s strange that there’s no interview with Anne Dorval.
- Cannes Film Festival (7:38): A clip from the event where Mommy was one of the double winners of the Jury prize, along with Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language.
- Deleted Scenes (21:22): There are 9 scenes here, all which have to be selected separately whereas a ‘play all’ button would have been very welcome and is usually what you’d expect to find on a DVD or Blu-ray. Anyhoo, I think the extended versions of scenes featured would be better put back into the film, but not so much for the other ones, except scene 7.
Mommy is out now on DVD, but no Blu-ray release? That feels like a mis-step as it’s a fantastic film and would really benefit. Yes, cost vs quantity sold may be an issue, but while there are region-free Blu-ray versions you can import, I haven’t found one yet through Amazon.co.uk which is available with English subtitles, only Spanish or French subtitles, which is no good for English viewers. Also, check out the full-size cover by clicking on the packshot.
Running time: 139 minutes
Released: July 20th 2015
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen: 0.56:1, 1.85:1 Anamorphic widescreen
Disc Format: DVD9
Director: Xavier Dolan
Producers: Xavier Dolan and Nancy Grant
Screenplay: Xavier Dolan
Diane ‘Die’ Després: Anne Dorval
Steve O’Connor Després: Antoine-Olivier Pilon
Kyla: Suzanne Clément
Paul: Patrick Huard
Patrick: Alexandre Goyette
Directrice du centre: Michèle Lituac
Marthe: Viviane Pascal
Natacha: Natalie Hamel-Roy
Adult Steve: Steven Chevrin
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.