In the wake of Mommy’s success, the young prodigy, Xavier Dolan has allowed himself an ambitious French cast, taking yet another crack in the recent Cannes Film Festival for the primary competition. It was a film that was supposedly poorly received upon its premiere, with boos being thrown left and right, claiming it to be the filmmaker’s worst film to date. Despite such murmurs, I came into Sydney Film Festival’s screening of the film with great optimism, hoping that the early reception was only a misunderstanding, that maybe the atmosphere of that particular screening along with comparison with much greater films could have severely contributed to its overall response.
I am here to confirm such a reception, with an experience that delivers Dolan at his most deliberate and indulgent, as he places his audience at an disadvantageous position of knowing less of the characters on screen, and their deeper complexities buried away from opportunities of clear exposition. He is assured of the audience’s faith in him, that he almost wants to test it, to demonstrate how far he is able to push before his audience would completely reject it.
Such a particular brand of style could have been forgiven if it had been compensated with a narrative that allowed itself to be capable of being followed, as though its opening moments seem to linger on the protagonist’s hidden secret of mortality and his intentions of such information towards his family, one that is cryptic and unbalanced with a needed payoff, delivering a premise that promises to penetrate the characters it introduces and explore the familial dynamics. Dolan indeed promises to have its characters to reveal themselves, but it is does so without a needed context that would have allowed for consistent orientation, and it becomes much more infuriating as Dolan has chosen to indulge the film with extended segments of characters bantering and sharing, but by its scene’s end, it has achieved very little, and thus from a collective standpoint, the film amounts to almost nothing.
There is a stylish glow that resembles much of Dolan’s previous films, and here in It’s Only the End of the World, there is an attractiveness that is undeniable, and with this he pairs his scenes with an array of close ups of his beautiful cast, allowing to provide greater impact in their performances, and though the cast provides an effort that is committed than most of what they have done in their careers, the lack of clarity in Dolan’s storytelling leaves very little to desire for his audience, and thus resisting me from being able to deeply appreciate the provided efforts that were brought to this project.
Although this film is not a complete catastrophe, as this is still Dolan at his most efficient in creating his particular brand of aesthetic, I did however feel throughout a deep sense of rage towards the film, pleading for some sort of rope to be thrown so I could latch onto its greater intentions. I am still left curious on what Dolan would create next, as assuringly his increasing sense of aesthetic would find a material that would fittingly suit it, heightening his intentions in a manner that recalls the strengths of his previous pictures, possibly more. It is doubtful that Dolan is a figure who has passed his prime, with an age of only 27, surely many things are still rumbling within that head tank of his. Honestly, he can only go upwards from here.