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IFI French Film Festival 2019 Review - MATTHIAS & MAXIME

matthias and maxime review
Two friends struggle to confront their mutual attraction.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Xavier Dolan

Starring: Gabriel D'Almeida Freitas, Xavier Dolan, Pier-Luc Funk, Anne Dorval, Harris Dickinson

matthias and maxime poster




Has Xavier Dolan burnt himself out at the tender age of 30? The writer/director/actor arrived on the scene a decade ago with a string of acclaimed movies made while still in his early twenties, culminating in his 2014 masterpiece Mommy, arguably the decade's greatest film. Since then he's struggled to recapture that early magic, with two subsequent films - It's Only the End of the World and his still unreleased English language debut The Death & Life of John F. Donovan - savaged by critics following their festival debuts. In the case of the former, I believe the critics got it wrong, while I have yet to see the latter. But Dolan's eighth film in 10 years (feeling like a waster yet?), Matthias & Maxime, is the sort of bad movie only talented filmmakers are capable of making.

matthias and maxime review


Casting himself once again on his return to his native Quebec, Dolan plays the titular Maxime, a working class young man on the cusp of his thirties. Having lost much of his youth taking care of his alcoholic mother (Anne Dorval), Maxime is set to emigrate to Australia. A stick is thrust in the spokes of his plans when he embarks on a weekend getaway with a bunch of mates, including Matthias (Gabriel D'Almeida Freitas), whose life of affluence is a million miles away from Matthias's struggles.

[ READ MORE: IFI French Film Festival 2019 Review - Portrait of a Lady on Fire ]

Matthias and Maxime are roped in to star in a student film being made by Erika (Camille Felton), the wannabe valley girl sister of one of their friends. Their roles require them to share a kiss, a development heavily mocked by their friends, and afterwards both men are haunted by their moment of forced passion, and try their best to suppress their feelings for one another.

matthias and maxime review


By his melodramatic standards, Matthias & Maxime is a low key drama for Dolan, but it still features his trademarks of shifting aspect ratios, counter-intuitive music cues and intense close-ups. Yet here they merely serve to irritate, as though Dolan is imitating himself, like a failing sports coach struggling to force a once successful formation on a team that has outgrown his tactics. In Mommy, he used expanding and contracting aspect ratios in a revolutionary manner to convey the psychology of his characters, but here it just comes off as a distraction, and at one point it takes us out of the moment of a deeply intimate and pivotal scene.

[ READ MORE: IFI French Film Festival 2019 Review - Amanda ]

The main issue with Matthias & Maxime is that neither of the title characters, nor the world they inhabit, feel remotely real. Dolan miscasts himself as a straight-coded man attempting to keep his true nature under wraps, but it's impossible to buy him as straight, and it's equally improbable that nobody in his circle can see him for his true self. It's not just Dolan - I couldn't buy any of the male characters here as anything but friends of Dorothy done up in heteroface (certainly not Harris Dickinson as a parody of an American dude-bro). Matthias is engaged to be married, but how can his fiancΓ©e not see what's going on when from the first scene he starts pinging the audience's gaydars?

matthias and maxime review


In the closing scenes, Dolan gives us a reminder of his talents, both as a filmmaker and a performer, in a touching scene that sees Maxime struggle to ask for a character reference over the phone from an American secretary, his broken English underlining his feeling that he's been left behind by a world that can't understand him. There's no visual trickery on display in this scene, no shouty dramatics, just a talented actor speaking into a prop and drawing on heartfelt experience. This is the Xavier Dolan we want back. 

A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.




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