Wednesday, September 14, 2016


It's Only The End Of The World is a bit of a paradox because in order for it to really have worked it should've been twice as long (we're given at least three hours worth of material crammed in to a 90 minute movie). But the problem is that even if the movie were twice as long, I doubt a lot of folks would want to sit through 3+ hours of one of the most frustrating cinematic families of the last ten years. It's Only The End Of The World tells the story of a terminally ill playwright ("Louis") trying to make an effort to reconnect with the family he distanced himself from for over a decade. His family, which consists of an older brother "Antoine" (Vincent Cassell), younger sister "Suzanne" (Lea Seydoux) and widowed mother (Nathalie Bey), doesn't know that he is dying. Will Louis tell his family the bad news or not?
(Marion Cotillard also co-stars as Cassell's wife but her talent was so underutilized that she was kind of forgettable. Just about any actress could have played her part).

Less than 10 minutes in to the film we're introduced to Louis' family and we quickly come to learn why he kept his distance from them for so long. His brother Antoine has the temperament of an angry 10 year old with emotional problems, his sister Suzanne is a moody brat (she's also a bit of a burnout), and his mother is incredibly flighty and overly concerned with vanity. They all make inappropriate comments towards each other and are constantly shouting every 5 minutes. It's chaos.
I know I'm not exactly praising this film but Dolan has certainly matured as a filmmaker. This might be his most mature film to date. And if you follow this blog regularly then you know I'm fascinated with films about siblings and/or big families (I'm an only child so that world is foreign to me). So I'm always down for a well-crafted (or an attempt at a well-crafted) family drama. Xavier Dolan does a great job of throwing us in to the deep end right away.

But there are some serious rough edges that could have been ironed out in my opinion...

A lot of the music in the film heavily dictates how you're supposed to feel when it isn't necessary. When Louis walks in to his mother's house for the first time in 12 years we already know it's a big deal yet Dolan uses this swelling orchestral music to make us feel overwhelmed. But it's overkill. We know it's a dramatic moment already.
Another issue I have with the music is Xavier Dolan's choice of pop music at odd/inappropriate times. If you're familiar with Dolan's work then you know pop music is a staple within the DNA of his filmography. But most of his films focus on young "hip" characters having relationship problems and/or going to parties so it makes sense to use pop music under those settings. But It's Only The End Of The World is a serious family drama. There's no point to throw in Moby and other synthesized pumping cotton candy pop songs. It would be interesting to see Xavier Dolan take his music cues from a guy like Haneke and use little to no music in his next movie.
Louis' "holier than thou" attitude is a bit much after a while and Vincent Cassell's performance is turned up to 10. At times it felt like Cassell was playing an angry caricature of himself. I don't see how a human being like "Antoine" would exist/survive in real life with the temper he has.

I don't spend my time writing about movies on here that I completely dislike. This movie shouldn't be dismissed. If you're a fan of Xavier Dolan or the new/current wave of young arthouse filmmakers, I still recommend seeing this. You can see the progression & maturity in his filmmaking since his debut in 2010 (I compare Dolan's growth to Ben Affleck's growth as a director in that Gone Baby Gone is still his best film but he grows as a director with each movie). Certain elements within It's Only The End Of The World seem as if they would come from the mind of a seasoned middle-aged filmmaker rather than the 27 year old mind of Dolan. There's an honest attempt at creating real drama and he does take his characters very seriously.

I do feel somewhat bad for the negative reception this film received from some critics at Cannes (I say somewhat because even with all the negative press, Dolan still won the grand jury prize). The (sometimes unlikeable) characters are very intense right out of the gate and I think certain critics disliked the movie when it's characters they really disliked and somewhere things got lost in translation (it's like hating The Last King Of Scotland because Forest Whitaker gives a somewhat charming performance as Idi Amin). It's a little unfair that Dolan had to deal with that kind of irresponsible criticism.

But from the use of color & slow-motion to the continued exploration of the relationship between mother & son (this is yet another Dolan film where the father is a just a brief memory with little screen time) - It's Only The End Of The World fits in perfectly with the rest of Dolan's filmography.


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