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I Killed My Mother (2009)

I Killed My Mother (2009)

An unflinchingly honest family drama from a young filmmaker, authentic down to its imperfections

7.0

Movie

Canada
French
Drama
2009
XAVIER DOLAN
Anne Dorval, Benoît Gouin, Émile Mailhiot
96 min

What it's about

Hubert, a brash 17-year-old, is confused and torn by a love-hate relationship with his mother that consumes him more and more each day. After distressing ordeals and tragic episodes, Hubert will find his mother on the banks of Saint Lawrence river, where he grew up, and where a murder will be committed: the murder of childhood.

The take

Xavier Dolan’s emotionally charged directorial debut centers on the complex relationship between 16-year-old Hubert and his mother, brought to life by Dolan himself and Anne Dorval, respectively. The film paints an authentic and all-too-familiar picture of two people who love each other yet clash in similarly self-centered and stubborn ways.

The mother-and-son duo vacillate between love and hate in a screenplay full of drama. The cinematography, relying much on negative space, perfectly evokes a sense of disconnect and animosity. However, there is little subtlety to be found here, much like Hubert’s sexuality being embodied by a poster of River Phoenix displayed in his bedroom. The rawness and heightened telling of events indicate that this story is as fresh and unpolished as then 19-year-old Dolan’s own feelings about family dysfunction, particularly mommy issues. The heavy-handedness and moments of exaggeration in his quasi-autobiography are obvious, a fault of execution that one can attribute to lack of experience.

Still, the powerful visuals and dialogue hint at a vision of what more to expect in Dolan’s now-celebrated career. I Killed My Mother, by all accounts, fulfills its role as his promising directorial debut.

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