Twenty-five year old writer/director Xavier Doland blesses the screen with a mesmerizing, complex, powerfully provocative depiction of a destructive mother/son relationship; brilliantly filmed, Doland’s screen is a triptych, one character at a time, squashed in the center, framed by blackness on either side; the viewer is imprisoned, breathless; claustrophobia threatens while the characters take turns ambushing one’s focus.
Initially, we meet “Diane” (overwhelming talented Anne Dorval), alluringly tawdry, widowed, mid-forties with a tongue like a gutter snipe and a hardened confidence that denies her diminished circumstances; her fifteen-year-old son “Steve” (beautiful, sordid, pained characterization by Antoine Oliver-Pilon) is being released from a state institution for delinquents; he is afflicted with ADHD and deemed hopeless. Diane and Steve live in a microcosm of extremes; verbally and physically taunting and abusing each other; profound love cloaks their divisiveness; Steve, without his medications, is helpless in reigning his violent, tumultuous, emotional outbursts. A neighbor, “Kyla” (outstanding, Suzanne Clement) after witnessing one of these cataclysmic eruptions, fearlessly intervenes, and magically the tone, mood and screen expand with hope; Doland’s genius allows us to breath freely, watching Diane, Steve and Klya ride bicycles, palatable joy oozes from their laughter; Kyla tutors Steve; he dreams of going to Julliard School of Dance; one sinuous, sensuous number proves that his dream is worthy of realization.
Unexpectedness permeates “Mommy” anchoring one’s attention throughout; easy to empirically categorize, these characters perpetually surprise us, fracturing our misconceptions, they weave their elusive, intangible strengths, foibles and pierce the bull’s-eye of the human condition. Unforgettable, this psychological story profoundly, gloriously resonates with a sublime understanding of those outside the norm.