Dolan takes an unexpected left turn with this largely solid suspense-laden drama about grief, death and hidden secrets, with a sprinkle of male-on-male masochism.
Dir. Xavier Dolan
2013 | Canada/France | Drama/Mystery | 103 mins | 1.85:1 | French
Not rated – likely to be M18 for some mature themes
Cast: Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy, Evelyne Brochu
Plot: Following his lover’s death, Tom travels to rural Québec for his burial, to the family farm, where mother Agathe remains ignorant of her deceased son’s sexuality.
Awards: Won FIPRESCI Prize & Nom. for Golden Lion & Queer Lion (Venice)
International Sales: MK2
Subject Matter: Moderate – Truth, Homosexuality, Grief
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Tom at the Farm was made at a time when Xavier Dolan was a wunderkind and the toast of big-name film festivals. After the exuberant likes of Heartbeats (2010) and Laurence Anyways (2012), the Canadian director’s fourth feature is a curveball as much as its genre is concerned—a suspense-drama that builds upon established conventions of disquieting, slow-burn thrillers.
It is unlike any Dolan film that has come before or after it, stylistically or tonally. The director himself plays Tom as he visits a farm in the countryside of Montreal. He’s there for the funeral of his male lover, whose grief-stricken mother and aggressive older brother, Francis, he would soon meet for the first time.
Tonally, Tom at the Farm is thick with psychological tension, with Dolan employing a couple of ‘jump scares’ for good measure. It’s probably his most Hitchcockian film, with Gabriel Yared’s ominous score reminiscent of Bernard Hermann.
“I don’t care about people, so people don’t care about me, you know.”
A work about grief, death and hidden secrets, Dolan plays around craftily with relational dynamics, the most pronounced of which is none other than that of Tom and Francis. Tom’s well-concealed homosexuality (which Francis is aware of) and the latter’s imposing physicality make for a rough and tumble time, including a sprinkle of male-on-male masochism.
A largely solid film, Tom at the Farm might not be one of Dolan’s best (though some would argue against it), but one could admire his risk appetite as he goes into unchartered territory with this unexpected left turn of a movie.