Title: Laurence Anyways
Country: Canada, France
Language: French, English
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Xavier Dolan
Writers: Xavier Dolan
Cinematography: Yves Bélanger
Magalie Lépine Blondeau
It is Canadian prodigy Xavier Dolan’s third feature, after I KILLED MY MOTHER (2009) and HEARTBEATS (2010), the first one he doesn’t hog a leading role for himself. LAURENCE ANYWAYS chronicles a 10 year up-and-down relationship between Laurence Alia (Poupaud), a man with GID (Gender Identity Disorder) and determines to dress up like a woman, and his girlfriend Fred Belair (Clément) from 1989 to the looming millennium.
Scale wise it is Dolan’s boldest and most ambitious one (save his two subsequent films TOM AT THE FARM 2013 and MOMMY 2014, which I haven’t seen yet), extending around 168 minutes, Dolan strenuously spells out a panorama of struggles of Laurence and Fred, for the former, it is a life-or-death judgement call, without opening up to embrace his true id, life is pointless and meaningless to him; more thoughtfully and unconventionally, the film generously grants maximum space for the latter, to zoom in on Fred’s striving for breath and co-existence when her world is equally capsized by the blunt decision made by the man she loves.
As early as the opening introduction of Laurence through onlookers (deceitfully) spontaneous responses till the very end, Laurence and Fred separately exit the barroom with posh slo-motion against the brisk gust, stylistically Dolan comes much more at ease with his ostentatious aesthetic codes, Day-Glo disco, subdued lighting, kitschy ornamentation, pop art, avant-garde tableaux vivant, chic party, campy or crammed locale confinement, highlighted by Les Five Roses, and all aided by a killing mixtape (from Fever Ray, The Cure, Visage to Moderat) to leaven the zeitgeist and propel the storytelling.
It is a pure melodrama, spearheaded by two impressive leading performances by Poupaud and Clément, especially the latter, her explosion which bookends the midway of this drawn-out feature is intensely electrifying and utterly breathtaking. She also impeccably handles the unvoiced implosion of her character, shepherded by hairstylists, costume designers and Dolan’s unerring determination to lay bare all the subtlety with abstract symbolism and his own perceptive sensations.
Most of the time, Poupaud conceals his handsome contour under a ridiculous wig, heavy make-up doesn’t help either, but nothing can hide Laurence’s intrepidity, sensitivity and charm through his less flamboyant but more realistic rendition. Nathalie Baye, plays Laurence’s negligent mother, pungently bespeaks both parenting and gender-identity are not innately fitting to anyone.
LAURENCE ANYWAYS is a solid corroboration of Dolan’s prowess to explore and conquer a wider scope out of his comfort zone, visually distinct and artistically eclectic, although in any event he needs to be polished up a little bit and get himself out of the self-indulgent pitfall, let me just suppress a dash of jealousy and get ready to rejoice in the wunderkind’s another output, hopefully is the much-anticipated TOM AT THE FARM.