Tom at the Farm – Movie Review

Xavier Dolan directed my favorite movie a few years ago, and when I went to the cinema to watch it, I knew nothing about him. I then discovered that Mommy was in fact his fifth film, but I refused to watch the rest, afraid of being disappointed. There was no way he could live up to the expectations. But when Tom at the Farm was recommended to me, I couldn’t say no. Was it any good, though? Let’s find out…

Upon the death of his lover, Tom goes to the deceased’s farm to pay respects to his family, only to discovers there’s more to them than meets the eye.

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What a short and vague summary, huh? I don’t want to spoil anything to you.  The story isn’t directly presented to you, as actions are what unveil what’s going on and what each character’s motivations are. “Show, don’t tell”. If you’ve read my review of Mommy, you probably remember that was the only problem I had with the film: it began with some text on the screen, which could have been explained with dialogue. Tom at the Farm doesn’t make that mistake, and everything is conveyed using the cinematographic language. Taking into account this film was done before Mommy, it was quite surprising to see how amazingly the director managed to do this even better years earlier.

The script is incredibly subtle too, with just the right words to make viewers understand how each character feels and what their motivations are, but without a single obvious word. It’s snappy and very clever. As I said earlier, nothing is explained directly to you, and unless you read a summary before watching the film, you’ll slowly discover what’s going on, as it will be your job to unravel the meaning behind the sentences. It’s also very masterfully crafted script, the characters have their own way of speaking, but those aren’t obvious either. In fact, the characters themselves aren’t obvious. They have a lot hidden to themselves, so getting to know them is an experience full of surprises.

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Xavier Dolan both directs and stars the film, as he plays Tom, the main character. I really liked his performance in the film, but I do have the feeling that having to be on-screen wasn’t a very wise decision, as the direction, while still very good, isn’t up-to-par with some of Dolan’s other projects’. Camera work is great as always, but maybe not as creative as I’d like to expect. The rest of the cast is amazing, too. Lise Roy and Pierre-Yves Cardinal star as the mother and son living in the farm, and they’re both spectacularly good. I particularly enjoyed Roy’s character, as it is packed with lights and shadows, and lots of subtleties, and the actress delivers a brilliant performance.

Tom at the Farm is a brave film regarding the topics it depicts. Homophobia is the central pillar to the story, and it is treated masterfully, with a maturity that we rarely see in movies nowadays.  It doesn’t point fingers or antagonize those who are against freedom of sexual orientation. It’s more complex than that, the characters are part of a waltz that pushes the boundaries back and forth, letting the spectators judge where to draw the line of what’s correct and what isn’t.

Gabriel Yared wrote the score for the film, and the result is breath-taking. Strings, strings and more strings create deep and thrilling tunes that fit the tone of the movie perfectly. Listening to it after watching the feature feels uncomfortable, tense.

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Aspect ratio is a very important feature of Tom at the Farm too, as it is one of those movies that plays with it, the way Mommy and The Grand Budapest Hotel do. In this case, most of the runtime we are presented with a 16:9 ratio (that of most TVs, computer screens and smartphones). But in some violent and tense scenes, the screen gets narrower, creating a more filmic look with a 2.35:1 ratio. It may seem like a cheesy gimmick, but it works beautifully at creating tension, and, together with Yared’s score, the result is thrilling.

Dolan is a genius. He has great ideas for his movies, and some film-making qualities very rarely found even in the most experienced professionals. Starring as well as directing Tom at the Farm is a small misstep, since it lowers the control he has as a director, but the result is stunning anyways. Mature, stylish, and thrilling, this is a movie that should not be missed, as it is another gem in the filmography of one of the most prolific authors today. 9/10

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