Following the relative success of his two previous feature films Heartbeats and I Killed My Mother, young writer/director Xavier Dolan was the deserving winner of the Queer Palm Award at Cannes 2012 for Laurence Anyways.
the relative success of his two previous feature films Heartbeats and I Killed
My Mother, young writer/director Xavier Dolan was the deserving winner of the
Queer Palm Award at Cannes 2012 for Laurence Anyways. There is no doubt that this film is
epic in duration and blatantly self-indulgent with its over-the-top style and
sense of melodrama, but ultimately it voices a powerful social commentary and
displays a unique visual style with a real sense of romance.
In Montreal, 1989, high school teacher and writer, Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) lives a steady life
with film producer girlfriend Frédérique (Suzanne Clément).
Together for 2 years they are deliriously in love, enjoying a life of
clubbing, sipping martinis in the car and laughing together. However it soon becomes clear that
Laurence is struggling with a secret and reveals to Fred, his family and his
colleagues that he is a transsexual and cannot go on living as a man. As Laurence prepares to make the
transition to a woman, a shocked and overwhelmed Fred is forced to come to
terms with his decision. Life for
them carries on but the complexity of their situation and the ignorant views of
a prejudiced society become too much, forcing them apart. But will their love for one another be
strong enough to bring them back together?
Laurence Anyways is a real examination of the
difficulties faced by transsexual people:
coming out, the reactions and assumptions of others and generally just being
accepted. It is a long, but robust
story, documenting the 10 year span of the lives and turbulent on/off
relationship of Laurence and Fred from the late 80s to late 90s: a period when transsexualism and gender
reassignment were taboo subjects, with transsexualism even recognised as a
mental illness until 1994.
Laurence’s need to live and be recognised as a woman makes him a social
pariah; ostracised and misunderstood by society and some family members and
colleagues. When a rude waitress
continually questions Laurence on his choice of clothing, Fred has an emotional
outburst and says exactly what the viewer is thinking: “Bring the coffee, serve the food and
shut the f*** up.” Laurence
remains strong in the face of it: “Our
generation can take this. We’re
ready for it.” There are however, many
positive moments in the film when Laurence is accepted, with one particularly
stand out scene when he walks in to his classroom of students, donning women’s
clothing and make-up for the first time.
It is a scene of overwhelming silence and dread, but with a heart-warming
conclusion that gives the viewer the same relieved, warm feeling that Laurence
In the beginning, the relationship between Laurence and Fred
is irritatingly played out like a melodrama as they laugh together
uncontrollably. However Laurence’s
revelation is something of a catalyst for both their lives and their relationship
to become something more interesting and profound. It is as if they must be themselves for a while before they
can come back to one another with Laurence finding the confidence to become a
writer and Fred trying out a whole different life. This film is packed with little romantic touches and
indications of the lasting love between them through the years: sweet poetry, cherished gifts held on
to for years, romantic gestures and charming dialogue: “The moment I met you, I knew I was in
for something extraordinary.”
Poupaud and Clément are so confident and strong in their characters that
you become so deep in the moment that at times you cannot take your eyes off
The length of this film could be considerably cut, especially
with the presence of some smaller, unnecessary sub-plots. However throughout, Dolan’s intelligent
direction and the chic cinematography of Yves
Bélanger give Laurence Anyways a unique and powerful visual style, much
like a work of art. Alongside the
sharp, retro fashion of the 80s, much of the film has the feel of a pop
video. Vibrant, punching scenes of
slow motion and stunning close-ups are set against an eclectic soundtrack of
classical symphonies and 80s electro pop.
The changing weathers of the Canadian backdrop through the different
seasons make for a dramatic setting resulting in a colourful, wind-blown autumn
Laurence Anyways may border on pretentious but ultimately it
is a warm, beautiful film with plenty to say about lasting love and the
importance of just being able to be oneself.