Xavier Dolan has finally done it. After six years of taking films to the Cannes Film Festival, the Montreal auteur took home the prestigious Jury Prize for Mommy, a drama about the turbulent relationship between a single mother and her son—directed, written, produced and edited by the 25-year-old wunderkind. Dolan is arguably Canada’s most promising young filmmaker. His directorial debut, I Killed My Mother, which he wrote at the tender age of 16, won him the Cannes Prix Regards Jeunes in 2009. The next year, he scored the same award with Les amours imaginaires, about an unconsummated ménage à trois, and in 2012 he won the Queer Palme for his transgender melodrama Laurence Anyways. Then in 2013, he released Tom at the Farm at the Venice Film Festival. The poignant psychological thriller about a young widower who drops in on his late boyfriend’s family (based on a play by Michel Marc Bouchard) is being screened across Canada this weekend. On the eve of its release, FLARE talks to the talented and unequivocally handsome enfant terrible of Quebecois film about directing someone else’s screenplay for the first time, and his predilection for difficult men.
What drew you to Michel Marc Bouchard’s Tom at the Farm?
The mom’s character hit close to home, obviously. The mother-son dynamic is dear to what I write and I’m sensitive to how homosexual writers give that relationship importance.
A lot can be lost in the translation from stage to screen. What didn’t make the final cut?
The monologue after the funeral—the mom has an exhausted outburst, the typical histrionics a filmmaker loves in female characters. She exploded over a macaroni salad. You know, small talk, big feelings. Then she cried and I was like, Oh…that didn’t work. The stage is instantaneous. Onscreen, it’s suddenly verbose, pretentious in its simplicity, in its banality. It just doesn’t work. There were one or two dollies in the film, so it’s purged of the stylistic endeavours from my previous films. I tried to narrow Tom down to basics—close-ups, wides, close-ups, wides—so that scene was so simplified. We only had 17 days so we could not indulge in any sophisticated stuff.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters in Tom at the Farm?
Tom chooses the hardest journey to grieving. He lies in order to redefine who he is: lies to himself, lies to the other people, trying to convince everyone he’s a farm boy in order to rebuild who he is. In that way he subscribes to the worst and most demeaning treatments. I can see that pattern in the way I choose lovers, sometimes. I don’t engage in sadomasochism, but I do choose challenging people to fall for.
Tom at the Farm opens in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto on May 30.