“It’s Only the End of the World,” from Canadian bad-boy Xavier Dolan, polarized critics in Cannes. The family drama starring Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux, Nathalie Baye, and Vincent Cassel was largely shot in intense close-ups, and many Cannes attendees found the film overly theatrical.
Still, the director took home the Cannes Grand Prix. And now it’s his home country’s submission for the foreign-language Academy Award.
Canada is being loyal to one of its anointed auteurs. They tend to stick with their favorite sons, from four-timer Denys Arcand (whose films have been nominated thrice and won once), to three-timers Denis Villeneuve (nominated once) and the yet-to-be nominated Dolan.
It’s understandable for a country’s film culture czars to take a top festival into prize consideration when picking their foreign-language Oscar submission. (According to one TIFF source, Dolan was a slam dunk over such candidates as Zach Kanuk’s “The Searchers.”) But it’s puzzling for them to ignore the film’s 48% ranking on Metacritic and 42% on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as the likelihood that it will not play well for Academy voters. There’s a reason the French-language film has no U.S. distributor.
Submitting Dolan’s movie is throwing away Canada’s chance of winning. Yes, the film did nab the Cannes prize, but that jury was largely made up of actors (five out of nine, including influential Canadian Donald Sutherland) who could relate to the highly charged story of a successful artist with a terminal illness who returns home after 12 years to confront his family. (The film is based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce.) And the directors could appreciate Dolan’s innovative direction.
But will it work for Academy voters? That is the question.