Young Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan was a big hit at this summer’s Cannes Film Festival. His film Mommy became the talk of the town. With his previous film, Tom à la ferme, Dolan shows a restraint you could not foresee from his other films. Tom (Xavier Dolan), a young advertiser ,travels to the country for the funeral of his boyfriend Guillaume. Guillaume was not out to his family. His mother Agathe still thinks he had a girlfriend named Sara. Francis, Guillaume’s brother, knows who Tom is, and violently convinces him to shut up. Francis is a violent homophobe, but like his mother, there is also a streak of fragility and vulnerability. After the funeral, when Tom tries to escape he is brought back by Francis. There is a scene in a corn field where Dolan creates (with his acting and his direction), a complete sence of emotional and directional confusion, which is perfect of course because that’s what Tom à la ferme is all about. Tom may try to escape, but is not able to. It becomes impossible when he finds the frame of is car mounted on bricks in the stable. The real question is: Does Tom really want to escape? Tom finds himself sexually attracted by the violence (and by Francis), and at the same time he is repulsed and creeped out by it. With the arrival of Sara, hysteria goes up a few notch, especially from Agathe who seem to suspect the truth about Guillaume. Dolan is a marvelously effective director of psychological thrillers. But his force here is in his cast, and how he directs them. Lise Roy’s Agathe is a woman with in a deceptively fragile physical and emotional state. Francis is played by Pierre-Yves Cardinal, and he shows all the right nuances of violent, aggressive, tenderness and all manners of sexual ambiguities. It so exciting to watch him and Dolan in a sort of cat and mouse emotional chase. But the best moment happens toward the end of Tom à la ferme. In a conversation Tom has with a barman ( Dolan’s father Manuel Tadros) he is told Francis and Guillaume’s terrible secret. In its simplicity and subtle acting, it reveals the greatness of Dolan as a director. Dolan and Michel Marc Bouchard adapted Bouchard’s play. And we should not forget Gabriel Yared’s tense score creating dysfunctional musicality.
Tom à la ferme (Tom at the farm)