Tom at the Farm
Xavier Dolan's fourth feature is insightful, intriguing and darkly lovely, if a little self-important
Filmmaker Xavier Dolan errs a little on the self-important side here, but so might you if you were only in your early twenties, on your fourth feature film as a writer / director (adapting, in this case, from a stage play by Dolan's fellow French-Canadian Michel Marc Bouchard), and starring in it to boot.
Dolan plays the eponymous Tom, whose farm visit is no jolly day out in the country, but a fraught solo visit to the childhood home of his recently deceased boyfriend. Tom arrives expecting to speak at the funeral, but quickly gathers that his own existence has been kept secret; not only was his lover’s family unaware of the relationship, but they appear to generally function in a seething cauldron of denial and pretense.
Enter Tom, unstable and needy from his own grief, to stir the pot. He instantly and violently clashes with his lover’s brother, Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), self-appointed keeper of the family’s secrets – but a heady blend of shock, sorrow and building fascination with what he has uncovered prevents Tom from either airing the truth or just leaving town. And despite the prevalence of untruths, this urban hipster finds himself in no small part drawn by the visceral authenticity of farming life. ‘It’s all so real,’ he says, after helping out with some of the bloodier daily tasks.
The film can be mannered – it rams home its Hitchcockiness too hard, with an oppressively Herrmann-esque score by Gabriel Yared; and Dolan really likes lingering shots of his own pretty visage – and in the end it doesn’t quite know what to with all its murky layers of mystery. But it looks darkly lovely, its performances are fiercely charismatic, and its examination of the ways in which fear, deceit, violence and desire can mingle is insightful and intriguing.
Limited release from Fri 4 Apr.