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Six definitive films: The ultimate beginner's guide to Xavier Dolan

Xavier Dolan has emerged as one of the boldest voices of contemporary cinema. Known for his acting work as well as his brilliant artistic vision when it comes to filmmaking, Dolan is the perfect representative for this generation of new auteurs. Having already directed multiple acclaimed films that are considered to be modern masterpieces, Dolan is on his way towards greater cinematic glory.

Born in Montreal, Dolan was involved in the performing arts from a very early age since he worked as a child actor. He started writing screenplays when he was young as well and made his first feature film at the tender age of 19 which attracted international recognition and showed the world that a new promising artist had arrived on the world stage.

Since then, Dolan has made many more critically acclaimed features as he has continued to mature and grow with each cinematic project. He has become one of the leading figures of today’s New Queer Cinema and is currently branching out into other domains such as television. In order to understand his artistic sensibilities, we will take you through some of the key works of Xavier Dolan.

Check out the list below.

Xavier Dolan’s six definitive films:

I Killed My Mother (2009)

Dolan’s directorial debut feature was also his major breakthrough which only happens when there’s great talent at play. A semi-autobiographical coming-of-age film made by a 19-year-old Dolan who wrote it, produced it and starred in it, I Killed My Mother is the perfect entry into Dolan’s work.

It chronicles the intense love-hate relationship between a 16-year-old gay boy and his mother. Laden with extensive psychological subtext, I Killed My Mother is so effective because its origins are extremely personal. The film ended up receiving a standing ovation at Cannes and got multiple accolades at the Director’s Fortnight program.

Heartbeats (2010)

Dolan’s follow-up to I Killed My Mother reinforced his status as a filmmaker of promise. A stylised romantic drama, Heartbeats follows the extremely turbulent emotional journeys of two best friends who somehow end up falling in love with the same man.

Influenced by movements such as the French New Wave as well as other modern pioneers like Wong Kar-wai, the aesthetic frameworks of Heartbeats borrows from many sources of inspiration but it manages to successfully construct a coherent cinematic vision.

Laurence Anyways (2012)

Probably the crowning jewel of Dolan’s directorial career, Laurence Anyways is the perfect example of the beauty of New Queer Cinema. The film follows the life of Laurence – an acclaimed novelist who comes out to her girlfriend as a trans woman.

Although she does not take it well at first, she eventually becomes an indispensable part of Laurence’s journey. Despite all the societal prejudices and the omnipresent transphobia, Laurence moves forward with her life while her girlfriend drifts away.

Tom at the Farm (2013)

An adaptation of a play by Michel Marc Bouchard, Tom at the Farm revolves around the titular character – a young editor from Montreal who decides to visit his boyfriend Guillaume’s rural community when he tragically passes away at the extremely young age of 25.

However, he soon realises that his lover’s mother has no idea about her dead son’s sexuality. Although his brother knows, he intimidates Tom into keeping quiet but things get complicated as more truths about Guillaume’s life come to the light.

Mommy (2014)

Another fantastic film by Dolan, Mommy features yet another collaboration between Dolan and Anne Dorval who plays the role of a widowed mother with a son who suffers from ADHD-related issues and has been diagnosed with an attachment disorder.

Dealing with financial problems and instances of domestic violence, the mother and son duo lead a volatile life until their strange new neighbour comes to their assistance. Mommy ended up winning the coveted Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Matthias & Maxime (2019)

The latest directorial feature by Dolan, Matthias & Maxime is proof that Dolan has retained his top form after a few missteps. It tells the story of two men who have been friends all their lives but an interesting development takes place when they are asked to kiss for a student film.

The kiss plants doubts within their minds and forces them to rethink their relationship from a different perspective. One of the best Canadian films of the year, Matthias & Maxime provides enough evidence to come to the conclusion that Dolan has much more in store for the future.