Canadian behind the camera: A profile of Xavier Dolan

Scarlett Rowland profiles French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan

Scarlett Rowland
19th February 2018
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Xavier Dolan is a young French Canadian director and actor whose films focus on queer relationships including family and friends. I only managed to stumble across him after his film Mommy was featured on Netflix.

This 2014 film concerns the relationship of a problematic child with his mother, after a new law is brought in allowing parents to hospitalise their children, transferring the duty of care to the state. Though perhaps not his greatest work, his film was the perfect introduction to his true to life story telling and utterly raw characters combined with such gorgeous cinematography.

After watching Mommy, I immediately ordered a collection of his earlier films, J’ai tué ma mère, Les amours imaginaires and Laurence Anyways. As soon as they arrived I watched them all back to back. This collection of queer love, friendship, and life was warming to my soul, even though each story came with its own lingering sadness.

As an openly gay director, he lives his craft explaining why each any every film he has had a hand in creating is an astute look into queer lives.This explains why, J’ai tué ma mère, written when Dolan was 16, has been described by Dolan as semi-autobiographical. J’ai tué ma mère follows the life of a young gay man understanding his sexuality and how it effects his relationship with his peers and family.

Even though this was his first film, the level of praise he received was like someone who had been in the industry for life - receiving a standing ovation at its premier and received a plethora of international film festival awards. Lawrence Anyway tells the heartbreaking story of a love destined to fall apart, when one part of the couple who has been living as a man making the realisation of their true self, a woman. Whilst not a typical coming of age film, this film could be described as such, with the lead role Laurence (played by Melvil Poupaud) discovering their new life and coming to terms with their true identity.

If foreign film really isn’t your thing, you’re in luck! This year Dolan will be making his debut into English language film with The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, another film focusing on the relationship between mother and son. Not being one to be afraid of rocking the industry boat, Dolan recently went public with his decision to cut A-list celebrity Jessica Chastain from this film, stating that he felt the subplot which her character was a key part of did not end up fitting the rest of the film.

Despite this being perhaps a bold move for a still up and coming director, I am sure that Dolan, who sleeps, breathes, and eats queer film, has made the right choice and we will be presented with a thoughtful film post production.

Having throughly enjoyed his Quebecois films, I am highly looking forward to his debut into a new language.

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