Juste la Fin du Monde (It’s Only the End of the World)Cannes Film Festival 2016
Quebecois enfant terrible Xavier Dolan has shined since 2009 as a one-of-a-kind filmmaker, both by his career and style. After winning the Jury Prize in 2014 for his vigorous Mommy, his entry in the Official Selection for 2016 was much anticipated: Juste la Fin du Monde however will surprise addicts of his showy aesthetic as much as sceptics.
The action of Juste la Fin du Monde takes place in a single afternoon, as playwright Louis (Gaspard Ulliel, a regular in Dolan’s movies) visits his problematic family for the first time in 12 years, in order to announce his own death. As his mother, sister, brother and sister-in-law sway between eagerness to communicate with their long-lost relative and showing him total resentment, Louis (briefly) comes to terms with his own past.
Head of a young, hip, visually ostentatious wave of cinema, despite his tender age Dolan’s emblematic style is instantly recognisable in Juste la Fin du Monde. The film, however, includes a foreign note, possibly due to its theatrical inspiration. Adapted from Jean-Luc Lagarce’s homonym theatre piece, the picture combines a stage-like single-afternoon, single-setting story that focuses on inner drama, with a few sprints of all-out Dolan-esque. Louis’s memories set off sequences of artsy, symbolic and choreographed shots with Dolan’s distinctive vintage edge, but that unfortunately seem to re-chew the ideas of his earlier works (Heartbeats especially) and fall into a self-referential cliché. These Tumblr-fit shots take on the kitsch taste many love Dolan for, but as 2004 disco hit Dragostea Din Tei blasts out, one starts to wonder if, this time, the old trick didn’t work.
The story itself is an intense emotional endeavour that reveals, without explaining, the choked contrasts within a family. The Quebecois director always aims for a cinema of harsh emotional impact, and Lagarce’s play gives an excellent base. Remaining vaguely ambiguous at the end (voluntarily), the whole plot is a psychological grapple to understand the artist. To this regard, plaudits to the actors’ vigorous interpretations of the family members. Nathalie Baye is delightfully campy in a face-full of ridiculous make-up (the way Dolan seems to like them), Léa Seydoux and Marion Cotillard both remarkably troubled, while Vincent Cassel’s performance as the ill-tempered brother is as disturbing as it is remarkable.
Juste la Fin du Monde is fundamentally a theatre piece with enough pop extras to keep it recognisably Dolan: with an uncertain mix of new and old, it essentially feels like a transition film.
Juste la Fin du Monde does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch a clip from Juste la Fin du Monde here: