Mommy: An Unconventional Masterpiece

Written by Daniel Robery, Edited by Harry Russell

Mommy (Xavier Dolan, 2014) could at first seem a daunting experience. Challenging not only perhaps for its thematic and narrative content, but through its unabashed abandoning of the conventional cinematic aspect ratio. This is a film that relishes in auteurism; so elegantly does Dolan realise his vision, combining a potently raw screenplay with a unique use of film language to convey a truly singular cinematic experience. Mommy is quite simply spectacular. 

This is a film about a mother and her son. It follows the pair through their at times dysfunctional relationship and the unpredictable, sometimes violent, tendencies of the son. The film is full of such raw emotional intensity that is driven powerfully by the two leads. Their performances soar to operatic and melodramatic heights, yet bolster an undeniable truth and authenticity that grounds the film in its raw telling. 

The script is carefully meandering, allowing its characters and their dynamics to unfold naturally and endearingly. It naturally progresses and builds suddenly to jarringly climatic moments that reward the patience of the viewer. It is both dreadfully hopeful and gut-wrenchingly depressing; there is both optimism and pessimism at play within its thematic and narrative core. The film reaches a somewhat ambiguous ending, not necessarily in terms of its narrative, but in terms of the emotional fate of its characters; whether we are left with hope or despair. 

The cinematography is employed with beauty and elegance, bursting with colour and life. The romanticism in the colour palette complements the powerfully raw emotions on display; a colour palette that is both aesthetically and thematically aware. The film uses its 1:1 aspect ratio with purpose, creating an atmosphere of enclosure and entrapment. The screen confines the characters visually as they are confined by the circumstances of their lives. It uses the tools of cinema to full effect, resulting in powerful visual metaphors that burst with emotional weight and catharsis. It never feels pretentious and only enhances the experience of the film. 

In Mommy, Dolan uses the cinematic medium to its fullest, creating an expression of individuality, passion, and a powerful cohesion of visual and emotional storytelling. A truly unique experience, Mommy might just be a masterpiece.

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