You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

I Killed My Mother

A bright high schooler rages against his single mom in thesper Xavier Dolan's amusing but undisciplined directorial debut.

With: Anne Dorval, Xavier Dolan, Suzanne Clement, Francois Arnaud, Patricia Tulasne, Niels Schneider, Monique Spaziani.

A bright high schooler rages against his single mom in thesper Xavier Dolan’s amusing but undisciplined directorial debut, “I Killed My Mother.” Pages of ink will be spilled on the multihyphenate helmer’s youth (he’s 20) and precocity, and there’s much to praise, especially the oh-so-real dialogue, but true psychological penetration is lacking and Dolan’s hunger to prove his talent results in a superfluity of styles. Still, multigenerational auds worldwide will likely find kinship with the many funny/painful situations, and pic is a genuine crowdpleaser. Fests will come knocking, and even Stateside arthouse isn’t unthinkable.

Sixteen-year-old Hubert (Dolan) lives with his mom Chantale (Anne Dorval) in a nondescript Montreal suburb. Everything Chantale does annoys him: the way she eats, the way she dresses, the way she only half-listens to what he says. His tenuous hold on a filial-maternal relationship results in frequent explosions of the “I hate you” kind, while Chantale generally keeps quiet until Hubert’s crescendos demand a response.

It doesn’t help that Hubert keeps silent about his personal life, including that he’s gay and has a boyfriend in classmate Antonin Rimbaud (Francois Arnaud) — Chantale finds out by chance when Antonin’s hip mother Helene (Patricia Tulasne) sympathetically kvells. The one adult Hubert bonds with is teacher Julie (Suzanne Clement, appropriately warm and sympathetic), but then Chantale sends Hubert to a weekday boarding school when she can no longer handle his outbursts.

As scripter, Dolan gives only fitful respect to Chantale’s character, making her largely a caricature of a lower-middle-class single mom. Despite the title, and despite even what the helmer himself may think, this mother may not be the perfect parent, but she’s hardly a disaster. This is much more about an articulate, typically self-centered teen’s angst than a child raving against a genuinely bad mother.

There’s good stuff here, and if Dolan continues as a helmer, he’ll probably look back in 10 years and groan at some of the obvious novice elements, including the Antonin Artaud/Arthur Rimbaud “homage.” Occasional inserts of fantasy sequences, and an apparent gay-bashing, don’t jibe with the overall tone, and a sequence with Hubert and Antonin painting his mother’s office feels as though it’s in a different film (unsurprisingly, it’s the one scene Dolan edited himself).

As thesp, Dolan certainly inhabits the role, though the incessant screaming can be a bit much; a hyped-up rant when he’s on speed is both hilarious and a fine example of his ability to let loose with everything he’s got. Like all teens, especially those who think they’re self-aware, Hubert can be maddening and limited in his ability to analyze situations, but presumably that’s part of the role.

Art direction is meant to mock Chantale’s poor taste, which adds to the chuckles but reduces her further to a stereotype. Lensing using the RED-One digital cinema camera, with a transfer to 35mm, stays cool and unpretentious, with black-and-white confessional inserts that give Hubert a more direct, personal mode of confession. Music is nicely interpolated, and matter-of-fact gay elements shouldn’t relegate pic to the gay-fest ghetto.

An update was made to this article on May 19, 2009.

Popular on Variety

I Killed My Mother


Production: A K-Films Amerique release of a Mifilifilms production. (International sales: Rezo Films, Paris.) Produced by Xavier Dolan. Directed, written by Xavier Dolan.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, DV-to-35mm), Stephanie Weber-Biron; editor, Helene Girard; music, Nicholas Savard-L'Herbier; production designer, Anette Belley; art director, Dolan; costume designer, Nicole Pelletier; sound (Dolby Digital), Sylvain Brassard; line producer, Carole Mondello; associate producer, Daniel Morin. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 18, 2009. Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Anne Dorval, Xavier Dolan, Suzanne Clement, Francois Arnaud, Patricia Tulasne, Niels Schneider, Monique Spaziani.

More Film


    Filmax Acquires International on ‘The Curse of the Handsome Man’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Barcelona-based boutique studio Filmax has acquired international rights to Argentine producer-director Beda Docampo’s “The Curse of the Handsome Man,” produced by Ibón Cormenzana’s Arcadia Motion Pictures alongside Cados Producciones and Damned Besso –based in Spain—in co-production with Cecilia Díez’s Zarlek Producciones (“Medianeras”) in Argentina. The film is backed by Spanish public broadcaster [...]

  • La-mala-familia

    Javi Tasio Talks ECAM Incubator Title ‘La Mala Familia’

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Via their BRBR collective, filmmakers Nacho A. Villar and Luis Rojo have directed award winning music videos, and commercias. Now they’ll make the leap to features with “La Mala Familia,” a gritty urban drama set in the outskirts of Madrid. Variety spoke with the film’s producer, Javi Tasio, who developed this project at ECAM’s [...]

  • Submerged

    Outsider Takes World Sales on ‘Submerged’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Paul Hudson’s Outsider Pictures has acquired world sales rights to“Submergible” (Submerged) a narco capsule-sub-set drama thriller from Ecuador’s Alfredo León León who debuted with an original prisoner-of-war drama, “Open Wound.” Written by Daniela Granja Nuñez and Alfredo León León, “Submerged” is produced out of Ecuador by León León’s Boom en Cuadro and [...]

  • Charlie-Chaplin-and-Horse-Roy-Export-Co

    Carmen Chaplin to Direct ‘Charlie Chaplin, a Man of the World’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Director-producer-actress Carmen Chaplin is set to direct “Charlie Chaplin, a Man of the World,” a theatrical documentary feature which will add a hardly-explored new facet to the creator of the Tramp, one of the most iconic cinema characters in popular consciousness, plumbing Chaplin’s Romani roots and heritage. Marking the first time that [...]

  • Incitement

    'Incitement' Wins Ophir Award for Best Picture, Becomes Israel's Oscar Submission

    “Incitement” was the best-picture winner at Israel’s Ophir Awards on Sunday night, automatically becoming the country’s choice to vie for the international feature film Oscar. The winning film, a drama about the period leading up to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist in 1995, had its global premiere at [...]

  • LargoAI

    LargoAI Wins Inaugural San Sebastian Zinemaldia & Technology Startup Challenge

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Swiss artificial intelligence and data analytics company LargoAI won Sunday’s first-ever San Sebastian Film Festival Zinemaldia & Technology Startup Challenge. LargoAI’s software provides data-driven filmmaking strategies, similar to those used by major VOD platforms which aggregate and often horde their own user-driven data. From early in the screenwriting process through development and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content