Anguished romance, style to burn, and a soundtrack to die for. Canadian cinema's boy wonder is back.
DIRECTED BY XAVIER DOLAN
Patently emboldened by the accolades heaped on his precociously stylish first features (I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats), the epic, operatic Laurence Anyways finds Xavier Dolan indulging his every extravagant whim. At 23, the French-Canadian filmmaking prodigy is fast becoming one of world cinema’s most audacious aesthetes, and this frequently stunning, ‘90s-spanning tale of two irreconcilable soul mates will only enhance that reputation.
It’s equally clear, however, that Dolan has been galvanized by his critics too, and Laurence Anyways, for better and worse, also feels like a deliberate riposte to accusations that his stories lack substance. At 160 minutes, the film’s running time alone is an overcompensatory statement of intent, while Dolan’s subject matter here is conspicuously heftier than in his previous, hipster-centric paean to the folly of young love.
Giving a pair of remarkable performances, Melvil Poupaud and Cannes award-winner Suzanne Clément are Laurence and Frédérique, passionate bohemian thirtysomethings seemingly made for one another—until, that is, Laurence announces that his inner and outer makeups don’t match. His declaration that he must become a “she” sparks a tumultuous, decade-long odyssey of estrangement, reconciliation, and transformation (physical and otherwise) for both parties.
Perhaps inevitably, Dolan struggles to master his ambitious, unwieldy narrative, as well as his inclinations toward superfluous spectacle. But Laurence Anyways nonetheless consolidates his standing as an emerging filmmaker of truly singular gifts. It’s frightening to think what he’ll achieve when he stops trying so hard to impress.