Set between 1987 and 1999, this drama documents the tempestuous love affair between kindred spirits Laurence (Poupaud) and 'Fred' (Clement). When 35-year-old teacher/poet Laurence confesses that he has always felt like a woman, Fred decides to support him in his plans to have a sex change but has no idea how much Laurence's happiness will affect her life.
This is a major undertaking by French-Canadian writer-director Xavier Dolan, whose previous efforts were quirky little indie numbers; his visual flair isn't in doubt and while his story is inventive there's just not enough to warrant the bloated running time. During one of his classes, Laurence reckons that Proust took too long to say what he wanted to say but this self-deprecating joke is sullied when he adds, 'but we're in it for his talent.' Hmm. It appears Monsieur Dolan thinks a lot of himself. On the whole he has reason to. Helping to buff out the plot are a series of MTV-esque music videos: the Ultravox/Visage party scene and the gorgeous slow motion affair as the lovers stroll along a beachfront as colourful clothes inexplicably descend from above might be extraneous but damn they're pretty.
The first twenty minutes can grate as scenes and dialogue come thick and fast in an almost stream of consciousness. Irritating as it might be it successfully mimics Laurence's inner turmoil; suppressing his feelings, he's a livewire ready to blow and once he explodes into his confession, Dolan quietens everything down. All of a sudden, the film has focus and heart, and from here on it slowly becomes captivating as it gets down to business.
Exploring similar themes to The Crying Game, love is love and gender is gender, Dolan also investigates just how liberal this generation is. When Laurence turns up for work dressed as a woman, the shock he expects his appearance has doesn't come about, but later a waitresses' attempts to understand Laurence's eccentric clothes and make up highlights the fact that she can't.
Poupaud is wonderful but Clement is untouchable. Soundtrack of the year too.
Review by Gavin Burke | 12:51 | Friday 30th November 2012 | Movie Review
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