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Critics Go Crazy for Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy,” Unless It Drives Them Nuts

Critics Go Crazy for Xavier Dolan's "Mommy," Unless It Drives Them Nuts

Already a Cannes veteran at 25, Xavier Dolan has drawn some of Cannes’ most ecstatic reviews for “Mommy,” as well as a few skeptical squints. Here’s what critics are saying about the film, which is considered a serious contender for the Palme d’Or.

Reviews of “Mommy”

Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

It’s an uproariously emotional movie, to all appearances painfully personal and featuring performances which are almost operatic in scale. These are real heart-on-sleeve performances; even heart-on-straightjacket performances. The film has its flaws, relating to an indulgent length and a reliance on an imagined near-future in which there is a specific new Canadian law which makes the plot work. But Dolan’s energy and attack is thrilling; his movie is often brilliant and very funny in ways which smash through the barriers marked Incorrect and Inappropriate.

Peter Debruge, Variety

It’s uncanny how much Dolan’s style and overall solipsism have evolved in five years’ time, resulting in a funny, heartbreaking and, above all, original work — right down to its unusual 1:1 aspect ratio — that feels derivative of no one, not even himself.

Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

Dolan, already a Cannes veteran despite his impossibly young age, has made a film that glows with a young auteur’s technical ambition but that doesn’t lose sight of its audience. A movie that brings you in close to laugh and cry with you, “Mommy” is the best thing I’ve seen at this festival, and maybe all year.

Mary Corliss, TIme

A film of suffocating power and surprising warmth. Stripping himself of his stylistic borrowings from other directors, Dolan has found his own urgent voice and visual style. “Mommy” doesn’t aim for classical grandeur. Instead, it bursts through the screen with the rough vitality of real people, who love not wisely but too well.

Dave Calhoun, Time Out

This is melodrama and then some, and songs by Dido and Oasis boom out over musicial interludes and montages. It’s anything but minimal, but none of this drowns out the very real compassion and love that Dolan shows for all these characters, none of whom behave brilliantly all the time but who all struggle to get along in life as best they can. With Dolan, you feel you’re in the company of a truly original voice and one unafraid to make his mistakes right up there on the screen.

Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter

At over two hours, “Mommy” could benefit from a shorter cut, like all of Dolan’s self-edited films. Even so, he keeps this story engrossing, surprising and emotionally pungent for most of its long running time. In any case, it is Dolan’s warmest, most humane and least narcissistic film to date.

Wesley Morris, Grantland

There’s no attempt at respectability or post facto moral corrections for this one. It might be the most gloriously obnoxious movie to screen so far. 

Catherine Bray, Film 4

My main criticism of “Mommy,” which I really liked, is that it could have done with a shorter, sharper cut leaving us wanting more. That doesn’t feel like it would have been too tricky to achieve: “Mommy” is a film replete with striking images, vibrant characters and whole scenes that play out like entertaining self-contained pieces of theatre.

Mike D’Angelo, the Dissolve

Considering how long “Mommy” is, it’s surprising how little Dolan does with this scenario, which mostly runs around in hyperactive circles until it’s time for the big third-act meltdown. The film isn’t exactly a character study, but neither is it a satisfying narrative.

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

Though it can be gripping in the moment, the powerful ingredients at the root of “Mommy” regularly distract from its simple premise. But that alone is enough to make it a significant triumph in the context of Dolan’s career. As a director, he finally shows a willingness to work on the same wavelength of the material instead of adding distracting bells and whistles that overstate his characters’ grievances.

Peter Labuza, Film Stage

It’s not that Dolan has no sense of melodrama — it’s that he has no sense for using it as a structural device to carry us anywhere. Individual scenes may wield their power, but there’s zero sense that they build on one another, or even that we are gaining psychological insight through any single fight. 

Tim Robey, Telegraph

Dolan has everything in his arsenal now except discipline, which he appears to have left under the bed after the most promising film of his Icarus-like career, last year’s brilliantly atonal “Tom at the Farm.” Vain? Dolan? Always. Bouncing off its own square walls, his movie has all the reckless faults its people do, which you suspect is exactly how he wants it.

Guy Lodge, HitFix

If Dolan’s last film suggested he’d got these mannerisms out of his system, his new one counters that the mannerisms are his system: If “Mommy” counts as a slight creative step back, and I would argue that it is, it’s at least an elegant and purposeful one. (A sashay back, let’s say, with the swagger of an artist who has proven this isn’t his only option.)

Allan Hunter, Screen International

Knockout performances from a trio of Dolan regulars create vivid, complex characters that sustain us through a rollercoaster ride between extremes of joy and pain. An emphatic return to form after the overwrought theatrics of “Tom at the Farm,” “Mommy” should delight Dolan fans and potentially attract a wider audience to his work.

Jessica Kiang, Playlist

The film does feel slightly overlong at 140 minutes, losing a little momentum toward the end when it starts to feel like Dolan simply can’t bear to leave the characters, even though the story is done. To be honest, he’s got a point; characters this good, this flinty and sparky and full of all the good and bad energies of the universe, should live forever.

Alison Willmore, BuzzFeed

The film’s finest moments are those of lavish abandon, of the trio dancing to Celine Dion or a joyous Steve reaching toward the camera in the middle of a montage to open up the otherwise 1:1 aspect ratio. (In idiosyncratic fashion, “Mommy” is shot in a square like a two-hour Instagram video.) Still, the film, which hasn’t been picked up for a U.S. distributor yet, is a sign of Dolan’s gifts and his growth as a filmmaker.

Jason Gorber, Twitch

In a year when we had a tremendous disappointment from Atom Egoyan, a previously high-flying Canadian director, and an interesting but flawed film by the undisputed master of English language cinema David Cronenberg, it’s a treat to see that the most daring and audacious film comes from this Dolan kid who seems to be on a path to creating one of the more extraordinary film careers in my country’s history.

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