Mommy

Young Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan scores with this torrid tale of a mother-vs-son feud

Anne Dorval and Antoine Olivier Pilon in Xavier Dolan’s 'Mommy.' Credit: Shayne Laverdière/Roadside

This Canadian film has been described as an emotional horror show. It'll shake you, that's for damn sure. Writer-director Xavier Dolan, 25, debuted six years ago with I Killed My Mother. Oedipal issues are still at the fore in Mommy, in which 15-year-old, omnisexual, seemingly bipolar Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon) is more than two handfuls for his widowed mother, Diana "Die" Despres (Anne Dorval).

A new Quebec law reportedly will allow a parent to institutionalize a child without a court procedure. That sets Die to thinking. She's 50-ish, but those tight pants and skyscraper heels suggest a carnal spirit. The trouble is that blond, blue-eyed Steve can be a charmer when he's not setting fire to things or threatening physical harm. For help, Die leans on her neighbor (Suzanne Clement), a fragile-looking teacher with no perceived ability to keep the comet that is Steve in a home-school shoebox.

Here's the thing about Mommy: Even when Dolan gets self-indulgent and works his themes into the ground, he's a one-man fireworks display. His images jump off the screen and stick in your head. Pilon keeps coming at you. But it's Dorval whose tour de force performance breaks through barriers of culture and language. Just watch Dorval. She dares you not to.