Opening 27 Jun 2013
Writing credits: Xavier Dolan
Principal actors: Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clément, Nathalie Baye, Monia Chokri, Susan Almgren
Spanning ten years, Laurence Alia (Melvil Poupaud) and Cecilia aka Fred (Suzanne Clément) have one of those relationships of unending inspiration, laughter, and debate. After years of tortured denial, Laurence confides that he wants to be a woman and begins the transition by wearing make-up and women’s clothing. Fred is supportive at first, if not somewhat puzzled. Laurence’s earrings and make-up attract attention that makes her defensive. She realizes that she too had expectations that coincide with social norms despite her notions of being artistic and eccentric. Laurence battles with acceptance and even basic tolerance from his love, family, workplace, and Quebec society. He loses almost everything until a group of transgendered and queer individuals take him under their wing. Years pass and you see the two main characters become comfortable – Laurence with a new, more understanding girlfriend and Fred married, living in a large, well-appointed house in a wealthy neighborhood – but they are not entirely themselves either. As much as the two try to be apart, they constantly evoke the other in their day-to-day lives, and inevitably Laurence and Fred must confront each other again.
Laurence Anyways is Xavier Dolan’s third feature in what has been a prolific career for this young filmmaker. Dolan has come a long way from his earlier work, which is much more raw and amateur in structure. Laurence Anyways is an unflinching look at the intense and tortured relationship of Laurence Alia and his love Fred Belair. The chemistry between Poupaud and Clément is only equalled by the friendship between the two characters of the film. Poupaud’s more contemplative portrayal of Laurence is an excellent counterpoint to the raw energy Clément brings to the role of Cecilia, both strong performances that captivate. It is in the second half where the film suffers from what feels like several near-endings. One wants Laurence and Fred’s suffering to end as much as the film. There is nothing worse than sitting in a theater thinking that the film should have ended thirty minutes ago, casting a shadow on the preceding two hours. Despite this, the second half of the film also contains scenes of the greatest cinematographic beauty, delightful costuming, and surreal music attesting to Dolan’s ability to be an artist in every sense of the word.
This played at the Filmfest Hamburg 2012 and won the International Art Cinema Award. Both of Dolan’s earlier films, I Killed My Mother from 2009 and Heartbeats from 2010 showed at previous film festivals in Hamburg. (Imelda Nurwisah)