Laurence Anyways (2012): Xavier Dolan’s Third, Uneven Feature, Starring Melvil Pouppard and Nathalie Baye

Cannes Film Fest 2012–The third feature of Xavier Dolan, Canada’s ambitious and flamboyant wunderkind, Laurence Anyways, is an overlong, self-indulgent chronicle of a love whose course changes radically when one partner alters his sex.

Beginning in 1990s Montreal and spanning a whole decade, “Laurence Anyways” deals with one man’s long struggle to maintain a passionate romance with his female soul mate in the face of prejudice and hostility from friends, family (especially mother) and society.

World premiering in the 2012 Cannes Film Fest, where it has been relegated to the Un Certain Regard sidebar rather than the Main Competition, “Laurence Anyways” should be a tough sell for its producers.  Likely to travel the festival road, “Laurence Anyways” is a natural candidate for GLBT film festivals and perhaps limited theatrical release in major urban centers.

Sharply uneven, and taking a long time to unravel (close to three hours), the film is by turns absorbing and boring, inviting and alienating, serious and campy, largely due to Dolan’s lack of discipline and the advice of good producers and editors.

The movie stars French cinema icon Melvil Poupard, who was a last moment replacement for Louis Garrel, as Laurence, a writer and college professor, and Suzanne Clément as his lover Frederique, or Fred, as her friends call her. The wonderful actress Nathalie Baye puts on a brief appearance as Laurence’s mother.

In its good moments, the tale explores the emotional and social price of what it entails to become a transgender, including painful and costly surgical procedures, psychological traumas and a series of mental, sexual, and emotional readjustments to a new self, confronted with a hostile society. In the course of the film, Laurence gets fired and beaten, and Fred goes through a nervous breakdown.

Dolan is a self-conscious, savvy filmmaker, well versed for his age with literature, poetry, music (both classic and popular) and other arts. Thus, the sound track ranges from Prokofiev to Celine Dion to electro-rockers Depeche Mode and Duran Duran. He even includes a party scene around “We Fade to Grey,” a Euro-hit by the British cult band Visage.

At this phase, Dolan, who is only 23, remains a bright and promising, but also immature and precocious talent. The next couple of years–and films–will be crucial for establishing a more serious stature and reputation.


Production company: Lyla Films, MK2 Productions
Cast: Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clément, Nathalie Baye, Monia Chokri
Director: Xavier Dolan
Producer: Lyse Lafontaine
Executive producers: Nathaniel Karmitz, Charles Gillibert
Director of photography: Yves Belanger
Music: Noia

Running time: 160 Minutes