Tom at the Farm: Farmville according to Xavier Dolan
by Domenico La Porta
- A psychological thriller which, although it failed to create a surprise, was praised by the audience of the 70th Venice Mostra who discovered the film in competition
For his fourth feature at only 24 years old, Xavier Dolan is once again very ambitious in the choice of his themes. After a trilogy on impossibly love, the director from Quebec moves away from his comfort zone with Tom at the Farm [+see also:
film profile], a psychological thriller based on the play by Michel Marc Bouchard and presented in competition at the 70th Venice Mostra.
Dolan plays the main role, that of Tom, a young publicist who heads to the countryside for the funeral of his partner. In the family farm, he meets the mother (Lise Roy) and her other son (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) who have never heard of him. The brother, taciturn and violent, soon threatens Tom who has no choice but to lie about the true nature of his relationship with the deceased. Progressively, the young man integrates the rural community by working on the farm and he develops a strong desire for the brother. A relationship as dangerous as it is unhealthy begins...
To some extent, Tom at the Farm resembles Stranger by the Lake [+see also:
interview: Alain Guiraudie
film profile] by Alain Guiraudie.Both are clearly genre films in which the homosexuality of the characters is part of the narration. Tom at the Farm is probably more “serious” and “conventional”, but it is just as ambitious in that it explores difficult themes such as Stockholm syndrome (also present with Guiraudie) and repressed homosexuality. Xavier Dolan nevertheless manages to infuse the expected classical style with welcomed moments of imbalance. A Tango scene surprises and a rude response at the dinner table cuts through the polite atmosphere of the scene and contributes to making the story unpredictable, which is a good thing for a suspense thriller.
Tom is a complicated character faced with a strong emotional shock. His reactions are not always easy to understand and they can some times be annoying, a feeling often brought up by the heroine of a horror movie, for example. Identifying with the character is however critical for the audience to accompany him in his escape and feel the same fear. It is not constant. When Dolan introduces a female character (Evelyne Brochu), it is to allow us to look back at Tom whom we have been following from the start without fully understanding it might be time for some distance. While the trick is ingenious, it is a shame that Sarah’s character is abandoned so quickly once it served its purpose.
Dolan also edited the film and he is more sober than usual. The same economy is applied to the soundtrack, which, for once, does not transform scenes into video clips. Tom at the Farm is a coproduction between Canada and France which won’t find it difficult to reach its public on either territory and beyond. While it marks a turn in Dolan’s career, it still lacks a bit of maturity to become a genre classic. Moreover, the film will certainly enable Dolan to make up with some of his detractors while at the same time offering him a selection in competition for one of the most important festivals, and we know how much the young man enjoys this kind of recognition...
(Translated from French)
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