Friday 2 November 2012

London Film Festival: LAURENCE ANYWAYS review

Screened at last month's London Film Festival, Xavier Dolan's third directorial outing is now in cinemas.

Laurence Anyways follows the ten year relationship of Fred (Suzanne Clement) and Laurence (Melvil Poupaud), as Laurence chooses to become the person he wants to be and live his life as a woman. Directed by the 23 year old Xavier Dolan, Laurence Anyways is his third feature after I Killed My Other and Heartbeats, and continues his streak of fantastic relationship dramas.

Whereas I Killed My Mother saw Dolan try to explain the complexities of familial ties and Heartbeats showed a modern love triangle between friends, this time he shows what is at first a straightforward love affair between Laurence and Fred, given the added pressure of Laurence's decision that he needs to change his life by becoming a woman.

It is at this point you may expect their relationship to be over, but it in fact flourishes due to the understanding nature of Fred. Well, understanding coupled with immense confusion. Fred is looking for happiness, and she gets that from no better place than Laurence, so she supports his decision to go back to work wearing a skirt, and let the questions find answers along the way.

Dolan's films aren't style over substance, but hip stylings definitely played a big part on his previous films, in particular Heartbeats. There is a standout scene scene of flair here (featuring a cameo appearance by Xavier Dolan) that concerns a party of off-beat characters that are almost grotesque in their imagery. It plays out like a music video, soundtracked to Visage's Fade to Grey. The use of the song is not only to place the scene during the 1980's, but carries with it an immediate subtext due to that band's new romantic aesthetic and stylings. Apart from that instance, Laurence Anyways sees Dolan adopting a more restrained visual approach, allowing the character work to shine as this long played out love affair sees the two leads grow apart and find each other again and make many a sacrifice.

It's the performance of Suzanne Clement that made the entire film for me. Full of such heartbreak at every turn, Fred is an immensely likeable woman and the person whose journey I found the more affecting. That's not to say that Laurence is a figure of hate in any way. In Poupaud's understated and realistic performance Laurence undergoes a metamorphosis that may transform his physical appearance, but leaves him the same person, albeit a happier one.

It is a love story, and perhaps one of the most complicated ever to be committed to screen. Thankfully it is a love story that is believable; often moving and often heartbreaking. Laurence and Fred are Dolan's most easily likeable characters yet, and due to the efforts of the film's two lead actors, this is a tragic and heartfelt story that will leave you yearning for the happiness of both main characters. Xavier Dolan continues to grow into one of the most taltented young directors and screenwriters around.


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