Dolan’s latest, in which young and successful gay writer Louis-Jean (Gaspard Ulliel) returns home to announce his impending death to his estranged blue-collar family, assembles a dream cast of French actors including Baye, Cassel, Cotillard and Léa Seydoux. Adapted from Jean-Luc Lagarce’s play, the film is almost entirely in service to the performances. Ulliel brings nuance to the lead role and shares a few unsettling scenes with Cotillard, who excels in the role of the mousy, eager-to-please sister-in-law. But Cassel’s constant raging as Louis’ older brother, and Baye’s shrieking as their highly-strung mother, soon grow tiresome. The same can be said for the film as a whole – by starting out at a near hysterical pitch, it’s left with nowhere else to go once the tension really escalates. It’s also difficult at times to see where Dolan’s contribution lies, with little in the way of visual expression. Ultimately it feels like a step back for the young director, who gives us merely a frustrating glimpse of what a truly cinematic exploration might have offered.
It’s Only the End of the World | Directed by Xavier Dolan (France 2016) with Gaspard Ulliel, Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux and Nathalie Baye. Starts December 29
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