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Tom à la Ferme (Tom at the Farm) by Xavier Dolan

September 3, 2013

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Xavier Dolan, the Canadian wunderkind (24 years and already three works screened at Cannes and one at Venice), after three original screenplays, for his fourth feature has chosen to adapt someone’s else’s work – a play by another Canadian, Michel Marc Bouchard – and the novelty seems to work, while Tom (played of course by Dolan himself) is at the center of the story, Tom à la Ferme represents the first time we find a wide range of well written characters in a film by Dolan, even a small role like Sara (Evelyne Brochu) or the bartender (Manuel Tadros, a Dolan regular and Dolan’s father in real life) makes a meaningful and lasting impression on the viewer – I ignore if the change has to do with Dolan reaching maturity or having to deal/respect someone’s else’s work, but the huge step forward is right before our eyes (quite skeptical eyes before watching this); the adapted material is not the only novelty: Dolan for the first time works a genre, Tom à la Ferme is a psychological thriller.

Guillaume is dead, his boyfriend Tom decides to pay a visit to his lover’s family for his funeral, so Tom leaves Montreal to reach the country village where Guillaume’s family has a farm, needless to say Tom had never met them before, nor Guillaume’s family (a mother and a brother) is aware that Guillaume was gay.

This being a psychological thriller, the outcome can only be of a nightmarish kind, nonetheless in Tom at the Farm nothing goes where you could expect reading the plot or – in some cases – it does go but not in the way you expected – or where a lesser filmmaker would have gone, so kudos to mister Bouchard and to the young mister Dolan too, not only for the adaptation but because we have memorable scenes here, well written material, masterfully directed: just take the scene where Tom is in the bar, talking to the bartender, while Sara is in the car with Francis – it seems we are bound to discover why Guillaume’s family is the village outcast – the situation portrays an obvious aura of danger and crescent fear, but the way screenplay and directing manage to solve the scene it is not only original, but it’s simply damn good filmmaking!

Is this a film about a young gay man desiring to be recognized as a member of the family of his deceased lover? probably it is and it’s the kind of thought that sounds morbid and homophobic at the same time, Tom works in advertising and from the scant information the film provides – he is a boss at the workplace, he drives an expensive car – we gather he is a successful man in his line of work, so why is he going to the country? – the town and country cliché is well addressed in the film, the bartender ask tom: “are you French?” – we can understand the logic and the need of his going, but the film tells Tom that the only possible outcome of his going will be a perpetual nightmare.

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