A sprawling, vivid melodrama which follows Laurence, a writer and college professor, who makes the unexpected decision to transition from male to female.
- Director-Screenwriter Xavier Dolan
- Producer Lyse Lafontaine
- With Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clément, Nathalie Baye, Monia Chokri
- Canada-France 2012
- 159 mins
- UK distribution Network Releasing
If I Killed My Mother and Heartbeats signalled the arrival of an exciting new filmmaker, with Laurence Anyways Xavier Dolan cements his reputation as a major talent. This sprawling, vivid melodrama follows Laurence, a writer and college professor, who makes the unexpected decision to transition from male to female. Laurence’s long term girlfriend, Fred, is initially supportive, but as the reality of the situation develops she finds it increasingly difficult to deal with. Over the course of a decade, the pair strive to maintain their relationship, drifting in and out of each other’s lives, linked by a strong bond they cannot seem to break. As with his previous work, Dolan once again proves himself an astonishing visual artist with moments of arresting cinematic poetry. His stylistic flair is expertly supported by two demonstrative performances from Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clément, creating a heartbreaking love story of epic proportions.
In the 90s, I lived with my mother in suburban Montreal. At school, I was a child star, privileged to miss classes to act in a commercial or a film every once and while. From the perspective of my peers, I was in show business. The truth was that my relationship to cinema was superficial: besides the Disney classics, my initiation to the seventh art was limited to efficient and soulless Hollywood blockbusters, dubbed into French, which my father would take me to see (often to appreciate the dubbing, which was how he made his living). My mother was never pleased about these excursions, suspicious of the influence these films had on me. Later, I would come to believe she might have blamed them for my adolescent violence and indiscipline. In spite of all that, it was my mother who took me to my cinematic baptism. In December of 1997, I was 9 years old, and my mother brought me to the, regrettably now defunct, theatre Le Parisien. Throughout the course of that evening, I felt as though I was experiencing all the ‘firsts’ that life has to offer in hyperspeed: I fell in love with a man, a woman, costumes, design, images... I felt the shivers that accompany a genuinely great story, ambitious, told with respect for the rules of art, intelligent, epic and sensational. This cinematic shock cannot be overstated, and I knew that I needed in that moment to learn English as fast as possible, so that I too could act in American movies. It was also at this point in my life that I started dressing up in my mother’s clothes more often, more seriously, and without her ever preventing me. I spent more and more time in my imagination, eschewing a real world in which I found myself disliked by other kids my own age, collecting false friends due to my notoriety and creating an isolating shell of arrogance. This cinematic shock was, I realised only recently, a revelation: not only did I know that I wanted to be an actor and a director, but, like this amazing film I had just seen, I wanted my projects, my dreams, to be limitless, and I wanted the unsinkable love I had witnessed on screen to one day be mine. Fifteen years later, I watch Laurence Anyways, and I see my childhood still secretly at play. To be clear, I do not wish to become a woman, and my film is a homage to the ultimate love story: ambitious, impossible, the love we want to be sensational, boundless, the love that we don’t dare hope for, the love that only cinema, books and art provide. Laurence Anyways is a homage to the time in my life, before I became a director, when I had to become a man.
Born in Quebec in 1989, he first appeared on-screen as a four-year-old child actor in TV advertisements, and soon won dramatic roles, too (when credited as Xavier Dolan-Tadros). He developed his acting career throughout his teens both in feature films (J’en suis!; Le Marchand de sable; La Forteresse suspendue; Martyrs) and series TV (Omertà, la loi du silence), then attracted international attention when his first film as a director and screenwriter, J’ai tué ma mère, won three awards from the Director’s Fortnight programme at Cannes in 2009. Heartbeats played at the LFF in 2010.
2009 J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother)
2010 Les Amours imaginaires (Heartbeats)
2012 Laurence Anyways