MUBI UK film review: Matthias & Maxime
Luke Channell | On 28, Aug 2020
Director: Xavier Dolan
Cast: Xavier Dolan, Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas, Anne Dorval, Harris Dickinson
Watch Matthias & Maxime online in the UK: MUBI UK
Xavier Dolan is undoubtedly a filmmaker who splits opinion. At the age of just 31, Dolan already boasts eight directorial credits and has amassed himself a cohort of fans with his stylised, intensely emotional brand of cinema. Dolan’s body of work has also received its fair share of critics who lambast his self-indulgences and penchant for erratic melodrama. However, Matthias & Maxime may go some way in swaying those critics, as Dolan employs a more restrained approach and consequently delivers one of his most accessible, tender films to date.
Dolan’s eighth feature opens on the titular lifelong friends Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas) and Maxime (Dolan) exercising together on adjacent treadmills. From here, the pair spend almost the entirety of the narrative running away from their true feelings for one another.
Set in French-speaking Canada, romantic emotions between the duo are first coaxed at a friend’s house party when the host’s sister persuades them into starring in her short student film which involves them sharing a kiss. Both men are deeply changed by the experience but neither properly confront their desire. Throughout the rest of the narrative, Maxime contests with handing over care duties of his hot-headed, ex-addict mum (Anne Dorval) to his aunt as he prepares to leave for a two-year trip to Australia while Matthias endeavours to impress in his high-flying law job while keeping his relationship with a long-term girlfriend afloat.
Matthias & Maxime still bears all the fingerprints of a Dolan picture, with plenty of enjoyable needle drops, a brilliantly choregraphed sped-up party montage and a changing aspect ratio. These stylistic flourishes help maintain an exciting energy while Dolan’s heightened variety of melodrama is refreshingly dialled down. There are no explosive revelations or extended shouting matches; instead, the director favours a contemplative mood, exploring the central pair’s inner turmoil over their identity and sexuality through intimate close-ups and subtle glances. The narrative’s emotional crescendos unfold internally, and the film is all the more deeply felt because of it.
The intensity of these repressed emotions are elevated by a beautifully raw and sincere turn from Dolan, who is equally proficient in front of the camera as he is behind it. Newcomer Freitas also puts in an impressively convincing performance and his awkward interchanges with aggressively masculine client McAfee (hilariously played by Harris Dickinson) are a particular highlight.
The camaraderie of Matthias and Maxime’s tightly-knit friendship group feels well-realised although the film’s secondary characters stay largely indistinct and uninteresting. Maxime’s subplot with his belligerent mother – it wouldn’t be a Dolan film without a volatile mother-son dynamic – also feels somewhat uninspired, despite committed work from Dorval.
Nonetheless, Matthias & Maxime remains emotionally impactful thanks to the strength of Dolan’s sensitive portrayal of male friendship and unspoken longing. This open, honest and compelling tale of self-discovery is a resounding return to form for the Canadian wunderkind.
Matthias & Maxime is now available on MUBI UK, as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription.