Juste la Fin du Monde (It’s Only the End of the World)
Aged 27, director Xavier Dolan has impressed hordes of movie fans and become a Cannes favourite thanks to all the critically acclaimed films already under his belt. The latest is Canadian-French production It’s Only the End of the World. Supported by a stellar cast whose performance alone makes the viewing experience worthwhile, Dolan continues to develop his style, each time under greater scrutiny.
Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) is a writer in his 30s who has been away from his family for 12 years. The film begins as he journeys back to his hometown to disclose the news that he is terminally ill. He is greeted by his eccentric mother (Nathalie Baye), an arrogant older brother (Vincent Cassel) with his submissive wife (Marion Cotillard), and a teenage sister (Léa Seydoux) who was a child when he last saw her.
Based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, the action unfolds over one afternoon and retains the immediacy and intimate atmosphere of a stage piece. The focus is not on Louis coping with his illness but rather on the walls that prevent open communication between family members. Pride, and sometimes reservedness, cripples the characters to such a degree that all conversations take a grotesquely awkward turn.
The already difficult task of sharing his tragic secret proves to be even more taxing than predicted as Louis becomes the target of resentments grown during his long absence. He finds himself stifled by reproaches in a claustrophobic space that the camera work helps emphasise with an abundance of close-ups. Blinds, curtains, and window panes are a running motif as the characters figuratively hide or erect defensive screens whenever they interact.
Dolan sometimes spices up the soundtrack, a chiefly orchestral score, with commercial pop hits that can seem to clash with the overall mood. These are used deliberately to awaken a nostalgic feeling, which becomes somewhat sharper when the songs are lighthearted.
All elements combined, the movie becomes a powerful, heart-wrenching tour de force that hits harder than expected. Its weakness, perhaps, lies in the very fact that there is no respite from the emotional density: conflicts come often and escalate far too abruptly. Some may find the mood suffocating; many will be touched by its intensity. Regardless, it is impossible to deny the film’s power to totally absorb the audience and its ability to make the tension extend far beyond the screen.
It’s Only the End of the World is borderline melodramatic and it occasionally falls prey to rhetoric, but it is ultimately a remarkable work that reaffirms Dolan’s talent and makes one eagerly anticipate his future creations.
Juste la Fin du Monde (It’s Only the End of the World) is released nationwide on 24th February 2017.
Watch the trailer for Juste la Fin du Monde (It’s Only the End of the World) here: