A mannered, pretentious and ragged yet beautifully crafted and touchingly performed romantic drama
Xavier Dolan is an incurable romantic. His films are drenched in an intensely cine-literate sense of longing and frustrated desire. They display the melancholy of a Wong-Kar Wai brief encounter and all the self-consciousness of a nouvelle vague disciple. His third feature Laurence Anyways is easily his most ambitious work to date with its epic running time and exhausting emotional turmoils. It is overwrought, overlong and constantly veers between self-assurance and self-indulgence. Yet, there is enough visual flair, craft and compelling moments that you are persuaded to stay the course.
The work of John Cassavetes appears to have been a major influence on Laurence Anyways as committed actors mine the emotional depths of life-changing dramas. Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) is a teacher in Montreal. His girlfriend Fred (Suzanne Clement) works in the movies. They are a slightly insufferable couple whose life is defined by defying convention and clinging to each other like shipwrecked survivors on a rescue boat. Then Laurence finds the courage to confess that he wants to live the rest of his life as a woman. He hasn't stopped loving Fred or wanting to be with her, he has just reached the point in his identity when he feels trapped in the wrong gender.
Negotiating the new landscape of their relationship throughout the changing times and seasons of the 1990s is filled with heartbreak, tenderness, a soundtrack of contemporary pop hits (Duran Duran, Visage etc), falling apart and coming together.
You can hurtle countless misgivings at Laurence Anyways. It is mannered, pretentious and ragged and yet it is beautifully crafted and Melvil Poupaud (a late substitute for Louis Garrel) gives a touching performance as a character heroic in his determination to be true to himself. Love has rarely had such impossible obstacles to overcome.
Selected release from Fri 30 Nov.