Sarah Cook, marketing manager at The Ritzy in Brixton, writes about Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s third feature, Laurence Anyways (2011) which screens as part our Club Ciné strand, showcasing the best of French Cinema at Picturehouse Central.
Xavier Dolan’s films are full of evocative imagery and powerful characters. Were it not for his extreme youth, his films would already be canonised as the work of a serious auteur. Before he has even turned 30, Dolan has already crafted impeccable pieces of cinema Mommy (2013), I Killed My Mother (2009) and Tom at the Farm (2012). His prolific trajectory continues with the excellent, star-studded It’s Only the End of the World, released next year.
In an already expansive body of work Laurence Anyways is nothing short of extraordinary in scope and scale. The film revolves around the titular character who is on the cusp of greatness as his book is soon-to-be-published, his teaching career is going well, and he is in a loving relationship with girlfriend, Frédérique. The day after his 35th birthday, Laurence announces that he has always longed to be a woman and Frédérique supports with the transformation. Told in an almost documentary-style, the film looks at the couple’s changing relationship as Laurence’s transformation evolves.
Winner of the Queer Palm at Cannes, the film triumphs as a passionate and sensitive look at identity exploration. As always, Dolan is astute in uncovering his characters’ inner-workings and emotional journey. The bold exploration of transgenderism showcases the director’s gifted and humane approach to real-life stories like Laurence’s; the messiness, the strain and the complexy of transitioning into a truer self.
There are some truly evocative performances in the film. Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clements are terrific actors, fully committed to conveying realism in the journey that Fred and Laurence are on. Poupaud transforms beautifully into the different versions of Laurence as he tries to stay true to emotions and identity, detailing – with sensitivity – the stress and inner-torment of this particular story. Clements, who won the Un Certain Regard prize at the Cannes awards, is spectacular. Her visceral fury within and her own development with Laurence as the earnest, confused yet loving Fred creates this combative force within the film. It’s truly a gifted performance.
The acting and the absorbing storyline will keep you invested across the film’s mammoth runtime, especially because of Clements and Poupaud’s chemistry and acting together. Laurence Always is a glorious exploration of love, change and the struggle of finding your true identity.
Join us at Picturehouse Central on Sunday 4 December, 1pm. Book tickets.