VOD film review: Tom at the Farm
Ivan Radford | On 04, Apr 2014
Director: Xavier Dolan
Cast: Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy
Watch Tom at the Farm online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema / TalkTalk TV / iTunes
Is there anything that Xavier Dolan can’t do? The guy’s only 24 but he’s more prolific than ever in Tom at the Farm, starring, producing, writing and editing. He even designs the costumes. The end credits would be quicker if they listed the things that Dolan didn’t do. Still, the multi-talented filmmaker manages to juggle all the roles here to create a dark, interesting drama.
Tom travels to the titular farm to attend the funeral of his boyfriend, Guillaume – much to the pleasure of his mum, Agathe (Roy), who has no clue about their relationship, and the displeasure of his older brother, Francis (Cardinal), who has every clue possible.
“You’ll go in the morning,” Francis instructs Tom, flexing his muscles and taking off his tight vest. A few bruises and cuts later and Tom has his bags packed and ready to leave. “You’re not going anywhere,” Francis then orders, flexing his muscles and taking off his tight vest.
It’s a curious relationship that springs up between the two men, one sad and lonely, mourning the loss of his lover – the other sad and lonely, trapped in the middle of a Polanski-esque nowhere. Company, no matter what form, is a novelty for both, leading to a dependent bond that erupts in bouts of violence. When Agathe starts asking about Guillaume’s girlfriend, whom Francis invented years before, things get even more awkward. It’s like watching a Hitchcock adaptation of a Pinter play. On a farm. And with lots of tight vests.
Dolan is superb as Tom, all confused emotions and messy hair, matched well by Pierre-Yves Cardinal, who balances physical intimidation with unexpected vulnerability. The film’s most surprising moments, though come courtesy of Lise Roy, whose gentle, elderly demeanour descends into a fit of wailing, demanding to know what’s going on.
“Who are you? How did Guillaume die? Where? When?” she cries. It’s a direct knife through the buttery drama, which Dolan’s moody script milks for maximum unspoken tension. At just under two hours, though, that understated pace drags a little too much, leading to a meandering final act. Will Tom leave? Will Tom not leave? For all of Dolan’s believable uncertainty, his indecision threatens to become more irritating than intriguing towards the end. By the time the answer comes, the farm’s proverbial tractor has lost most of its momentum.
But the chemistry between Tom and Francis reaps real drama for the most part – one dance scene in a barn is incredible. After only four films and still in his 20s, that alone is an impressive achievement for Dolan. To do it while spinning a ton of other plates is even more so. Hell, he probably stood on one foot and recited the alphabet backwards too.