As Xavier Dolan completes 10 years in cinema, a look at ‘Tom at the Farm’

Posted on March 15, 2019

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In 2009, I Killed My Mother, a Canadian drama by a first-time filmmaker, premiered in the Director’s Fortnight programme of the Cannes Film Festival. It won three awards. Typically, this wouldn’t be major news — first films win awards all the time. But the director, Xavier Dolan, was only 20, and he said he wrote the (partly autobiographical) script when he was 16. Fast-forward 10 years, and Dolan is an art-house star. Mommy (2014) co-won the Jury Prize at Cannes (the other winner was Goodbye to Language by Jean-Luc Godard), and It’s Only the End of the World (2016) won the Grand Prix at Cannes. About the latter, Peter Bradshaw wrote in The Guardian: “This is a pressure cooker of anxiety, a film with the dials turned up to 12.”

Tom at the Farm (2013) is more low-key, more accessible, and a great entry point to this filmmaker’s work. On the surface, this is a moody drama about Tom (Dolan), whose boyfriend Guillaume has died. (Dolan is gay, and his films often contain queer themes.) Tom visits the boyfriend’s mother, Agathe, at her farm, to deliver a eulogy at the funeral — but Agathe doesn’t know Guillaume was gay. And Guillaume’s brother Francis, who stays with Agathe, wants to keep it that way. At night, he sneaks into the guest bedroom and warns Tom: “I knew you would come… I don’t know you, but I knew… Don’t say anything to my mother. She’s already quite sad. She doesn’t need to know anything more… Tomorrow at the church, you’ll say some nice words. And Agathe will love it. And everyone will love it… Then, you’ll pack your things. You’ll be out of our lives. You’ll be gone.”

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