EPIC in its emotional scope, dramatically intense and heartbreaking, Xavier Dolan�s Mommy is the closest thing to realistically capturing the struggles of child rearing we have seen for a while in cinema.
When widowed 40-something single mother Diane Despr�s�s (Anne Dorval) teenage son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) is ejected from school for setting the cafeteria on fire, she takes on full time custody once again in their modest dwelling.
They appear to be more like mates rather than mother and son, with a casual rapport and his foul mouth and audaciousness often matched by hers.
His cheeky comments and sometimes exhaustingly energetic behaviour can be put down to his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but he is mostly harmless, until he has an unpredictable and explosively violent outburst.
Their quiet and shy neighbour Kyla (Suzanne Cl�ment) brings some normalcy and peace to their lives, but just when things finally seem to be going smoothly, Steve�s behaviour causes devastating consequences and Diane finds herself suffocating in motherhood again.
Mommy threatens to be one note, with scene after scene of ear-piercing and expletive-laden screaming matches between mother and son, but the ramifications of this turbulent relationship are finally revealed, with Diane having to take heartbreaking action.
The story builds to such a profound final third that it may leave some viewers (like this one) an emotional wreck.
Dolan�s thrillingly imaginative use of aspect ratio to convey emotion is stunning to watch; narrow and claustrophobic for long stretches before opening up into widescreen when these character finally get the chance to experience happiness, then taking it away when shattering events occur.
Sometimes cinema is about experiencing hardships and emotionally draining situations vicariously through characters to gain perspective; Mommy would sit comfortably towards the top of the list of films that must be seen (or experienced).
Mommy is the final film to screen at Somerville as part of the Perth International Arts Festival from April 6-12.
Directed by: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Suzanne Cl�ment
Four and a half stars
Review by: Julian Wright