Luis returns home after twelve years of absence to face the family he has had very little contact with during this time. They wait for him with anticipation and fear, as he is the only one who successfully escaped their poor life by making a big success as a playwright in the big city. Luis has fears of his own. He needs to tell his family that he is about to die. But as his turbulent relationship with his older brother, baby sister and his mother unravel, will he find the right time to do this?
The director, Xavier Dolan, made his first commercially released film when he was only sixteen. This adaptation of a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, that was considered impossible to put on screen, has undergone a serious re-work by Dolan. Starring major European A-listers Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard and Lea Seydoux the film is an intentionally raw piece of work with its own cinematic language, which earned Dolan two Cesars in 2016. The film was also shortlisted for Oscar nomination, but never made the cut.
The shooting style of extreme close ups on actors faces, and the scenery coming in and out of focus, may be annoying at first, but I got used to it after a while. The dialogue is quirky; unfinished phrases hang in the air, creating the illusion that the actors make it all up as they go.
The theme is of time, and how little we have on our hands, and is embodied by the image of the cuckoo clock, a bird trapped within, like a soul in a body, singing until it breaks.
None of Dolan’s films are autobiographical, although they all feel that way. He is fascinated by the stories of young gay men who got themselves out of their comfort zone, facing both the troubled past and the uncertain future.
Dolan said that the first time he read the play he put it away, confused, but then, one day he picked it up again and thoroughly appreciated it. The same may be said for the film, for it was only after a day had passed after viewing it that it was completely settled in my mind so that I could write this short review.
The film is heavy and powerful, but is an easy one to digest as the dialog is quirky, and the performances are tragically funny and captivating. This is a rewarding cinematic drama that will only get better with time.