Xavier Dolan’s “I Killed My Mother” is most certainly one of my favourite films of the Toronto Film Festival. The film – written, directed, starring and produced by the 20-year old Dolan – the film details the intensely volatile relationship between a gay 16-year-old, Hubert (Dolan), and his mother, Chantale (the extraordinary Anne Dorval – who seriously gives one of the best performances of the year). The film builds through a series of richly hysterical conflicts that find these two characters exceedingly incapable of living with or without one another. Perhaps a viciously honest love story more than anything else, the film gives us an acute and compassionate portrayal of both sides of this complex human interaction.
It also works as an interesting companion piece to Tom Ford’s “A Single Man.” It totally normalizes Hubert’s sexuality, much like Ford normalizes George’s – and let’s it just background information for the film’s more dominant themes.
I interviewed both Ford and Dolan on the same day this week, which made for an interesting parallel in how they approached the topic in their films.
Dolan: “I feel like we’ve reached some point of evolution where we don’t need to claim things. I don’t take for granted that people accept homosexuality, but I didn’t feel the need to put that much importance on Hubert being gay… I think that movies that discuss gay identity are often too explicative or demand too much from society. I didn’t feel the need to put so much emphasis on it. This is not a movie about a ‘queer boy’ exploring his ‘queer life.’ It’s a movie about a son and his mother…For me personally, it wasn’t that hard. My life isn’t that complicated. I’m not from a Baptist church in Tennessee. When I told my mother and my father and the people close to me it never felt like it was going to break their heart or they were going to spray cold water on me. Since I didn’t live things that way, I didn’t feel the need to put that much importance on it in the film.”
Ford: “Isherwood’s books are not about struggling to deal with your homosexuality, which a lot of us do, of course. We live in a time when other people have struggled a great deal so we don’t have to struggle. Things are more accepted. You know, I’ve always thought of myself as just a human. I forget that I’m gay and I don’t see this as a gay story. It’s just a story about love and isolation and trying to figure out what life’s all about. What’s on screen, is the life I live. Those are my dogs. That’s the relationship I have with my boyfriend. The suicide was a suicide that happened in my family. At certain points in my life I’ve had intense depressions. That’s my life. It’s completely integrated.”
Here’s some poorly shot video from the Toronto premiere of the film – complete with some occasionally offensive moderation from a festival programmer (the way he talks to Dorval is demeaning, as is when he asks Dolan if he had practiced “method acting” in the sex scenes with his onscreen boyfriend).
Overall, though its a very entertaining Q&A. And please see this film whenever you get a chance: