The Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan's latest feature is a fresh and invigorating drama, albeit one about grim subject matter – the fraught relationship between a single mom and her delinquent teenage son, who is suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The camerawork is fast and fluent. The film is shot in 1:1, a very unusual aspect ratio that gives the images the quality of intimate family photos.
The glamorous mom Diane (magnificently played by Anne Dorval) is impulsive, sardonic, often foul-mouthed but utterly loyal to her son Steve. As played by Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Steve has the same qualities as Jack Nicholson's RP McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He is reckless, prey to violent mood swings and wilfully destructive. His behaviour is frequently obnoxious but he has a youthful charisma that atones for his misdeeds.
The film turns into a three-hander when the mother and son are befriended by their next-door neighbour Kyla (Suzanne Clément) a shy and enigmatic teacher on sabbatical. The plotting is wayward and haphazard but the film is made and performed with such frankness and emotional intensity that its occasional stumbles never seem a problem.
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