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Xavier Dolan’s unstoppably garrulous, sweet-natured new movie is a coming-of-age film, or possibly a coming-of-thirtysomethinghood film. Or perhaps it’s a portrait of a bunch of friends for whom things would never be the same again after that summer. It is not exactly a sexual awakening tale because the sexuality in question never really went to sleep. But it is a love story.
It is a personal film about a group of friends in French-speaking Canada. One is Maxime (played by Dolan), a young guy with a skin-pigmentation disorder whose career prospects have been hindered by looking after his troubled mother (hilariously played by Anne Dorval, in effect reprising her ferocious turn in Dolan’s 2014 film Mommy). We get some barnstorming arguments between Dolan and Dorval, complete with a sobbing, mirror-punching retreat to the bathroom. But now Max is going travelling in Australia, and handing over mum-care to his aunt.
Meanwhile, Max’s circle of friends are all vaguely disturbed by the imminence of his departure and what it means. Handsome, clean-cut Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas) is in a straight relationship and trying to climb up the ladder in his law firm. Things change when his annoying sister Erika, a would-be movie director, makes a short film and persuades Matthias and Maxime to be in it – and they have to kiss. The experience, expected to be laughed off, actually affects both men deeply and revives long-dormant feelings.
In a sense, the film is about the symptoms, direct and indirect, of this new confusion and excitement. Matthias and Maxime’s new secret affects their friends’ hive-mind without anyone quite acknowledging or grasping it, resulting in a monumentally violent argument about the rules of charades. (And could it be that in real life, Dolan was the one making the short films that challenged his friends’ identities?)
There are, naturally, some cinephile references in Dolan’s film, including a pretty high-minded reference to watching Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions on shrooms – though my own opinion on that movie is that there aren’t enough shrooms in the world. Weirdly, Max is fooled by the ancient prank of the voicemail message made to sound like someone has answered the phone. So he evidently hasn’t seen Terminator, where that gag features. He also appears to be the last person alive with a Hotmail address.
Max is desperately keen to get away to Australia and Dolan – who is an excellent actor – shows how he is scared of his feelings, scared of a Bedford Falls-type imprisonment, clinging to his hard-won freedom from his mother. But he can’t make the trip without a letter of recommendation from Matthias’s father, for whom he did a work-placement scheme. Dolan shows how excruciating it is for him to keep phoning Matthias’s dad’s secretary, in his awful English, chasing up this contentious bit of paper.
As ever, Dolan’s creative motor runs on dialogue: people talking, talking, talking. Sex is the one thing that stops the flow. He gets his camera intimately close to his actors’ faces: a wide shot, or a thoughtful tableau, is relatively rare. His movies, for me, have become increasingly watchable, accessible and enjoyable because the feelings involved are increasingly real and deeply felt. There is such tenderness and gentleness in this film.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Matthias & Maxime review – Xavier Dolan’s heartfelt tale of male longing | Cannes 2019