Dolan’s gift for melodramatic intensity slightly mellows here, but what comes out of it is a newfound sense of storytelling maturity.
Dir. Xavier Dolan
2019 | Canada | Drama | 119 mins | 1.85:1 | French
R21 (passed clean) for homosexual content
Cast: Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas, Xavier Dolan, Antoine Pilon, Anne Dorval, Pier-Luc Funk
Plot: When Matthias is made to kiss Maxime, everything changes. All at once, unresolved feelings bubble to the surface, leaving tangled emotions in their wake.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or & Queer Palm (Cannes)
International Sales: Wazabi
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
(Reviewed on screener)
Although it received a mixed reception critically, Xavier Dolan’s latest is actually not bad. In fact, I enjoyed it and felt that the (still) young hotshot filmmaker is aiming for something different here.
Premiered at Cannes, Matthias & Maxime sees Dolan’s gift for melodramatic intensity—that characterised a number of his earlier works like Heartbeats (2010) and Mommy (2014)—slightly mellowing here. But what comes out of it is a warm, newfound sense of storytelling maturity.
He stars as Maxime, who is going for further studies in Australia. But before his departure, his Quebec friends throw him a series of parties. After he is asked to kiss Matthias, his guy friend from childhood, for a scene in an experimental short film, feelings deep within the titular duo begin to creep up.
Slower-paced than usual, though Dolan’s trademark rapid-fire dialogue and eclectic use of music inject some energy into it, Matthias & Maxime is less about the external or the explicit (in fact, for a gay movie, there is a distinctive lack of any sex scene); instead, it draws its nuances and emotional substance from the implicit and the psychological.
Dolan’s performance reveals a vulnerable character, and so is his opposite number, Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas, who gives Matthias a sense of inner conflict he must overcome. Ultimately, the film isn’t about matters of the flesh (neither is it flashy and flamboyant by the director’s standards), but the relationship between two people who didn’t realise they mattered so much to each other.