Well, I did it, Andrew from Fistful of Films. I watched Mommy. Andrew’s made no secret of his appreciation of this Cannes sensation- now I get the picture on his masthead- and after the film resurfaced during Thursday Movie Picks a couple of weeks ago, I vowed to finally give this a watch.
First, I’ll say that I liked Mommy better than The Score, the Robert De Niro-Edward Norton heist movie from 2001 that I watched the night before. Like Mommy, The Score is filmed and set in Montreal, where I spent the first twenty-four years of my life. I know the city well, well enough to know that Quebecers don’t sound like that. The accents and dialects (more French than Quebecois) aren’t a big deal and most non-Canadians may not even notice but they’re distracting for me. Mommy’s already off to a good start just by being a Canadian film with actual Canadians.
The actors in Mommy get more than just the Franglais right. As mother and son, Anne Dorval and Antoine-Olivier Pilon always manage to make their increasingly complicated feelings and relationship believable, if not always likeable. Both Die (Dorval) and Steve (Pilon) are immediately off-putting. We are warned from the beginning that Steve can be a lot to take but I was unprepared for foul-mouthed and deliberately provocative style. Even Die, Steve’s long-suffering mother, is tough to take at first, presenting herself immediately as arrogant and confrontational through some pretty cocky gum-chewing.
I warmed to these characters quickly though. Die first. We quickly see how out of control- even dangerous- Steve is and I couldn’t help seeing her as a mother doing the best she can with an impossible situation. Steve has his charming- even sweet- side too. His feelings of guilt over ths burden he thinks he must be to his mother rise to a scene in a karaoke bar where he deliberately causes a scene in order to derail Die’s flirtation with a lawyer who she thinks can help with her son’s situation. The relationship between mother and son is unpredictable and at times a little strange but makes sense as we realize that they can’t help feeling that all they have is each other.
This relationship is written and acted to perfection even if Mommy isn’t. Dolan devotes way too much time to a stuttering former teacher who lives across the street without any real justification for doing so. I also could have done without the unusual 1.1 Aspect Ratio that is distracting at best and counter-productive during the more cinematic sequences that Dolan seems to love.
Have you seen Mommy? If you have, I would love to hear what you thought of the final scene.