Xavier Dolan seems to be among Cannes’ favorite filmmakers. He debuted five out of six features in Cannes and shared the Jury Prize for his previous film Mommy in 2014 with Jean-Luc Godard’s film Goodbye to Language. In 2015 he was part of the Jury of the Official Competition and won the Grand Prix and the Ecumenical Jury Prize at this year’s festival for his star-studded family drama It’s Only the End of the World. Shortly after its first screenings and the following premiere, the film received mixed reviews as it could not live up to the high expectations after his latest masterpiece Mommy according to a majority of film critics and festival attendees.
The screenplay was written by Dolan and is brought to life through its sharp and explosive dialogues. Yet it seems as if Dolan is at the top of his game when he is working with his own material […]
It’s Only the End of the World is an adaptation of a stage play of the same name by French writer Jean-Luc Lagarce about a writer who returns to his hometown after an absence of 12 years with the intention of telling his family about his terminal illness. The screenplay was written by Dolan and is brought to life through its sharp and explosive dialogues. Yet it seems as if Dolan is at the top of his game when he is working with his own material like he did for Mommy, I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats and Laurence Anyways.
For his sixth feature, the Canadian director has assembled an amazing cast of some of France’s best contemporary actors. Gaspard Ulliel plays the protagonist Louis, the estranged son and brother, who left home and only stayed in touch with his family by sending them some occasional postcards, especially on their birthdays. His widowed mother is portrayed by Nathalie Baye while Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel were cast as Suzanne and Antoine, Louis’ younger sister and older brother. Marion Cotillard completes the stellar cast and the dysfunctional family as Catherine, Antoine’s wife who never met Louis as he hasn’t even shown up for their wedding years ago.
The family reunion is supposed to bring the family back together over a nice lunch and dinner but as soon as Louis arrives, the shouting and fighting is about to begin. It’s obvious that his absence has hurt each family member in a different way and that they sort of resent his success as a writer since it might be the reason why he never came back in the first place. As much as they don’t want to hold it against him, they constantly rub off on each other at every topic that comes up. It seems as if the family has always been that toxic and extreme which would explain Louis’ desire to leave his family behind, yet we never find out what had happened. However, whenever Louis is not around, his siblings and his mother function quite well with one another. It’s very difficult for Louis to try to find the right moment to tell them about the reason why he came back in the first place.
It’s Only the End of the World is not Mommy nor is it trying to be […] it is obviously a completely different film standing by itself with a new subject matter and stylistic approaches […]
To support the unbearable and uncomfortable feeling during their dramatic discussions and fights, Dolan makes use of extreme close-ups that highlight the faces of the ensemble. Through that, he is not only able to focus on their facial expressions and their emotions, he also creates a claustrophobic feeling that is present throughout the film since most of it is captured in close-ups. The pessimistic view of this family reunion is interrupted by Louis’ memories of happier times. These insertions are very colorful and accompanied by upbeat pop songs and are clearly in contrast to what’s happening in the present.
Yes, Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World is not Mommy nor is it trying to be – as disappointed as some people might be because of that. It is structured around a dysfunctional family, a common theme for Dolan, but it is obviously a completely different film standing by itself with a new subject matter and stylistic approaches equivalent to its story. While it is not my new number one Dolan film – as a big fan of his work it is rather difficult to place it within my personal ranking to be honest, but that’s just me – it is still a fascinating, emotional and engaging film.
It's Only the End of the World is an explosive and distressing get-together of a dysfunctional family when they are reunited after 12 years.