BY LAUREN NISBET
This film was a bit of a departure for the mainstream blockbuster-lover in me. But that’s what TIFF is for, right?
I’ve always been instinctively turned off by the idea of subtitles, so I was apprehensive going into this very French movie from French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan. But for anyone else who has experienced similar hesitation, it really isn’t that bad–a great movie is great in any language, whether you understand the words or not.
I gathered from the enthusiasm of the audience that Dolan already has a following of film-lovers, and I quickly understood why. The film is simple, dark, funny, clever, mysterious and strange. This is not the kind of movie that becomes a mainstream hit, but it definitely strikes a chord with audiences who are open-minded to Dolan’s unique style.
Tom (Dolan), comes to a secluded farm to pay his condolences to the family of his lover, who has died. He leaves his life in Montreal to attend the funeral, but is subsequently drawn into life on the farm where he begins to uncover the secrets and dark truths that prompted his lover to leave home in the first place.
What struck me most about the style of this movie were the cuts between scenes and the lack of “in-between”. From a tense conversation we are suddenly jolted to a chase through the cornfield. From a dramatic revelation we jump ahead to a peaceful awakening the following morning. The audience is left to fill in the blanks, which is a very engaging way to tell a story. We are pulled in by the unanswered questions that punctuate the plot. The dramatic score and dreary visuals also do a great job of setting the scene and preparing us for the worst.
I also loved that Dolan kept a sense of humour despite the dark subject matter. There were tons of opportunities to laugh–the dialogue was witty, offbeat and clever, while still maintaining the unsettling tension that sets the tone of the story.
For a film adapted from a play, I think it did a great job of widening the scope of the story and creating a bigger picture. Looking back, I can picture how the scenes would play out on a live stage, and I think Dolan’s interpretation strengthens the content–the actions of the characters, their emotions, their anger and sadness and confusion–all of this reaches a point of intensity that I don’t think would be possible in live theatre.
It was strange to have Dolan come out at the end to answer questions but also kind of cool. He’s just a young kid–my age–who seems a little surprised by his success. I don’t know what my fellow TIFF-goers thought of his answers, but I admired the fact that he didn’t try to be too deep or serious–if not eloquent, he at least seemed very genuine.
Although it likely won’t be picked up as next season’s blockbuster hit, I think Tom at the Farm is worth watching and will definitely be appreciated by the true film-lovers of the world.
A media studies grad and pop culture junkie currently navigating the strange and mysterious world of corporate communications, Lauren spends most of her time buried under an ever-growing pile of TBR novels. Based in Toronto, she can be found at the local theatre every Tuesday for cheap movie night. Follow her on Twitter @laurenxnisbet