Xavier Dolan again proves to audiences the
distinct arthouse appeal of his films can indeed incorporate heart and warmth in his
characters. The story follows a troubled, widowed single
mother who raises an equally unsettled son alone in the suburbs of Quebec.
She then finds hope in her wretched life when a mysterious neighbour crosses paths. This
film is based on the idea of hope; a pathway that these
three characters want to get to all the while juggling their own insecurities between each
other. The absolute love for transient, temporal
happiness is something Dolan conveys beautifully amidst the need to follow social norms.
The most noteworthy visual tool Dolan uses is the 1:1 aspect ratio. He uses this tightly
cropped format to convey a sense of claustrophobia, both physical and emotional.
We as the audience also feel this everlasting desire to view the surroundings of the environment.
It creates this atmosphere of a world where nothing is as it seems.
The blackness protrudes in on Die’s financial instability, Steve’s emotional changes and
Kyla’s struggle to communicate on a surface level.
Dolan prolongs the unending constraints that the characters suffer. When the trio finally
find common ground to relieve their insecurities, the frame expands.
This uplifting, albeit brief scene creates a wonderful sensation of freedom and happiness.
No longer do the characters feel the need to shield their true nature, they finally
sense a feeling of hope in their broken lives. But when Die opens a letter about a huge payment,
the burden of their uncontrollable lives start to cave in.
The blackness inches inward back to tight shots, making it feel very heavy on the audience,
and on the characters. It goes to show how a bright spot can be turned into darkness
so quickly. Dolan aimed to convey the idea that people
can form these resolute bonds between each other.
With these three characters, they are a part of each other, they get along well even with
their idiosyncrasies. The characters will fight for the other, or
else they can’t escape from that person as they can’t escape their own mind.
Kyla is a character who basically becomes an extra family member. Her grief and anxiety
was alleviated by the free-wheeling all most bohemian lifestyle of Die and Steve.
The ending is not just a mother and son being torn apart, but also Kyla being pulled back
into the state of mind she was in before she met Die and Steve, all alone in a sterile
environment. Before the trio exist in their world together,
not a single person was happy. Steve was violent, Die had glaring stress issues and Kyla is
a recluse supposedly grieving a personal loss. But the connection they all share, however
short and doomed, allows them have a sense of purpose in the world.
The second instance where the frame opens up focuses solely on Die’s hopes and dreams
for a better future with Steve. It’s a brilliant yet deeply depressing montage
showcasing the beauty of life while also highlighting the impossibility of a perfect future.
Steve, no matter how innately good, is a boy whose fate is written due to his unnatural
impulses, which is why Die and Kyla give him up in the end.
Not because they don’t love him, it’s because they have to for his own good.
Not only is Mommy a visual treat for the eyes, it’s a brilliant film with deeply complex
characters. On paper, they each are polar opposites to
one another, but Dolan has the ability to weave human emotion in and out during desperate
times. It’s a tragedy in some aspects where character’s
will get to see what their lives are capable of becoming but don’t manage to fully realise