Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Xavier Dolan. Not yet? Don’t worry, that’s okay—we think you’ll know the Canadian filmmaker’s name soon enough.
A multi-hyphenate (actor-writer-director-editor-etc.), Dolan’s not even 26-years-old yet and is already proving to be a force to be reckoned with. His latest film, “Mommy,” cleaned up on the festival circuit, earning nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards, Vancouver International Film Festival, Toronto Film Critics Association Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, and others, including a Palme d’Or nomination and Jury Prize win at Cannes. “Mommy,” about a single mother trying to raise her troubled son, was Canada’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film to this year’s Academy Awards. (“I Killed My Mother,” Dolan’s first film, was Canada’s official submission to the 82ndOscars, five years ago.)
If Dolan is new to you—hell, even if he isn’t—we think this video essay sponsored by Toronto International Film Festival is a great introduction to the budding prodigy. The 11-minute video, written by Christopher Heron and edited by Brian Robertson, explores the aesthetic, reception, and stylistic choices in Dolan’s five features, “I Killed My Mother,” “Heartbeats,” “Lawrence Anyways,” “Tom at the Farm,” and “Mommy.”
Dolan’s work is beautiful if not somewhat manic, which is perhaps why the essay first deals with how his films are initially received. With artsy, “abrupt,” “stylistically mercurial” visuals, his filmography begs (some would argue) analysis of his influences. His is clearly an auteur, though one we perhaps shouldn’t bind to any particular influence. As Patricia Rozema’s narration states, “Characters are framed like paintings in their domestic spaces.” And it’s true—even to one who has not yet experienced Dolan’s films, the tribute makes it clear the young filmmaker has a keen sense for shot composition. His sense of style, his “aesthetic harmony,” is often staggering.
Check out the essay below, and be sure to add Dolan’s films to your queue. “I Killed My Mother,” “Heartbeats,” and “Lawrence Anyways” are all currently streaming on Netflix. Roadside Attractions is releasing “Mommy” in select theaters starting January 23.