Director, actor and screenwriter, Xavier Dolan is considered the enfant prodige of Canadian cinema. Since his directorial debut in 2009 with J’ai tué ma mère, the career of the very young filmmaker has never stopped. Son of Canadian actor Manuel Tadros, Dolan enters the world of entertainment at a very early age, acting in some films and TV series and dedicating himself to dubbing. At only nineteen he decides to go behind the camera. The result is shocking: with J’ai tué ma mère, directed, written, produced and performed by the young Canadian, audiences and critics go crazy. This is just the beginning of a glittering career destined to shine in the firmament of world cinema. In this article we want to draw up a ranking of the 8 films by Xavier Dolan, from the worst (if you can define it that way, because there isn’t a bad film made by Dolan) to the best.
8) My life with John F. Donovan
Let’s open the dances with the first film by Xavier Dolan made in the USA. Rupert Turner is eight years old and has a huge passion for John F. Donovan (played by the star of Game of Thrones, Kit Harington), star of American television and superhero on the big screen. An irreducible fan, she starts a regular correspondence with him that she hides from everyone, even from his mother, a young woman in distress who is trying to rebuild her life. However, the secret does not escape the school bully, who steals Rupert’s letters, unleashing his anger and the disproportionate reaction of the media. But Rupert is stronger than everything, even his idol, which he follows in the footsteps of becoming an equally successful actor. A star who confesses to the microphone of a skeptical journalist to whom she tells about her life with John F. Donovan. An intimate and fragile work about celebrity and the toxicity of fame.
7) It’s just the end of the world
In seventh position we find the sixth film by Xavier Dolan, awarded at Cannes with the Grand Prix in 2016. It’s only the end of the world – based on the pièce Juste la fin du monde by Jean-Luc Lagarce – does not deviate from the theatrical text but reworks in a typically Dolanian architecture of claustrophobic images, glued to the faces of the characters, portrayed in close-ups that overflow from the screen. The word of the original text, fragmented and complex, is not simply transformed into verbal language but takes on a sound value – with loud, redundant, obsessive dialogues – and a visual value – through the exclusive use of the face in long sequences of shots and reverse shots.
We continue with the director’s second film in chronological order: Les amours imaginaires, anglicized in Heartbeats. Francis – always Xavier Dolan – and Marie are two boys from Montréal, who live a serene and fulfilling friendship under the banner of a common passion for fashion. Their relationship is disrupted by the arrival in the city of Nicolas, an attractive and bewitching country boy who soon becomes the object of desire for both. Francis and Marie want something more from Nicolas than friendship, and therefore they set up a kind of love challenge to gain the time and attention of the newcomer, who, for his part, never lets himself go completely.
5) Tom at the farm
Xavier Dolan has spent virtually his entire filmography exploring the concepts of identity, sexual orientation and how these affect a person’s relationship with the world in which they exist and move. Of all, his fourth film – Tom à la ferme – released in 2013, is perhaps the most emblematic of his poetics and, although it is less known than other titles such as, for example, Laurence Anyways or Mommy, it is a cinematic experience you really shouldn’t miss it. Xavier Dolan stages a story full of pain and unresolved feelings. His Tom Podowski travels to a remote country town, to the birthplace of his former boyfriend Guillaume, now dead. His family is hosting him for the funeral and it doesn’t take long to understand that Tom is not welcome there at all. From there, it all starts.
4) Matthias & Maxime
In fourth place we find the eighth film by Xavier Dolan. Matthias & Maxime is a film that talks about friendship and love, and that puts the former and its saving power at the center of the representation. The distinction is delicate here, and works on the possibility that the friendship between two children could be the premise, or the promise, of an adult love. A somewhat moving and intimate film that explores the soul of Dolan himself.
3) Laurence anyways
Third feature film for Dolan who, through a narrative that covers a span of ten years, manages to return a profound reflection that undermines the laws of nature and bigoted religious postulates behind which lurk deep-rooted prejudices to be eradicated. Not a hymn to transgression, but a heartfelt parable on the free manifestation of one’s individuality. Thanks to Dolan’s sensitivity all differences are canceled, without neglecting the load of suffering that every choice in life entails. Ultimately, it is also a poignant contemporary love story that sweeps away the well-worn topoi of the genre. Extraordinary Melvil Poupaud, capable of rendering the innumerable facets of the protagonist without the slightest forcing. Impossible not to be moved at the end.
2) I killed my mother
The first film that saw the North American enfant prodige holding a film camera stops just a few centimeters from the first position. This is the directorial debut for Xavier Dolan, which highlights the clear talent of the Canadian behind the camera, at just 20 years old. The film was written when he was only 16, based on an autobiographical path. It tells the story of Hubert, a Canadian teenager who never had a father figure. The man, divorced from his wife, never really cared about his son’s life. He finds himself living with the impulses of his age, without a male role model. He keeps her homosexuality a secret from her mother, blaming her at the same time, accusing her of not loving him enough.
There could only be Mommy in the first position of our ranking. A suffered and profound portrait of human fragility, of our being often full of contradictory emotions; contradictions that exist in the relationships we weave every day and in what we have been carrying on since the day we came into the world. The film tells the story of a young mother, a widow, particularly full of life, who finds herself having to manage her son full-time. She gets custody of him and she has no idea how to deal with all the emotional load that she brings. It is in fact a problematic 15-year-old, suffering from attention deficit. A duo lacking something to find their own balance and, amid a thousand discussions and attempts to make ends meet, here comes Kyla, the new and extravagant girl in the neighborhood, into their lives.