Is there anything as annoying to a teenage boy as the sound of his mother eating? Or the sight of her messily scoffing a cream bun, with a gob of jam at the corner of her lipsticked mouth? This is the immediately recognisable scenario at the start of Xavier Dolan’s feature debut, I Killed My Mother. Dolan was a 17-year-old former child actor, living in the Montreal suburbs, and struggling to make the leap into adult roles. So he wrote and directed one for himself, appearing as the spoilt gay teenager, Hubert, fighting against his exasperated, and admittedly very annoying mother (played by Anne Dorval). The film received three awards and a standing ovation at Cannes in 2009.
Last year, the prodigiously talented and, it’s got to be said, quite stunningly handsome, 21-year-old Dolan followed up his debut with another wonderful film, Heartbeats – which won the $60,000 Sydney Film Prize (2010). Heartbeats proves again that the young French-Canadian actor/filmmaker has a gift for rendering familiar emotions with panache and humour – this time it’s unrequited love and jealousy as two friends fight for the affections of a third. Dolan is shamelessly ‘arty’ yet always accessible and never pretentious. A simple narrative wends its way through colour, music, straight-to-camera monologues and gorgeous clothes (Dolan also takes on the costume design and editing himself). I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Heartbeats and I Killed My Mother will screen together at Melbourne’s ACMI 7 – 28 April. Heartbeats will screen at Sydney’s Dendy Newtown from 31 March. Both films will release on DVD in August.
Note: This column originally appeared in The Big Issue, #377.