The plethora of cinematic talent at our disposal here in Canada is truly becoming an embarrassment of riches as the quality of Canadian cinema just keeps getting better and better. "Tom at the Farm" or Tom a la Ferme in French is a chilling psychological thriller about the obsessions and the secret shames that a small town keeps to itself.
Tom (Xavier Dolan) is a young advertising copywriter who travels to the rural countryside for a funeral. However while there, it all feels a little strange as no one knows who he is, or his relationship to the deceased that is except for his sadistic older brother (Pierre Yves Cardinal) who knows everything and soon sets them both on the path of a very twisted game, where the rules get even more confusing the more time Tom ends up staying in this small town. In order to protect the family's name and grieving mother (Lise Roy), Tom now has to play the peacekeeper in a household whose obscure past bodes an even great darkness then he could have possibly imagined as he understands the trappings of rural life and why some people just want to get out.
Easily one of the best talents in our country that most people have never heard of, writer/director and star Xavier Dolan adapts this stage play into a blood curdling thriller that will keep you on edge from minute one as it plays into so many basic and primal human emotion, making for one hell of an emotional ride.
Marking a bit of a shift for him, from a tonal perspective in this story, Dolan shows remarkable aptitude and crafting an atmosphere the perfectly serves the narrative. Shot in the rural areas that in most cases are really only about 2 hours away from Montreal in any direction, Dolan has masterfully captured the genuine sense of isolation that can seep in while living in these farm communities. He shoots with a near Hitchcockian sense of scope and grandeur and make a simple helicopter shot over a lonely Quebec highway feel like we are sweeping in over the Andes mountains.
Adapted from the play by Michel Marc Bouchard, it's a crisp narrative that didn't have to hit us over the head with some clumsy reveals as it all just happens and he forced us as an audience to roll with the punches, some of which were more than a little unexpected and truly hammered home by some fantastic performances.
I'd love to Xavier Dolan taking on acting job one day that wasn't his own material, as he has genuine talent in front of the camera as well as he embraces the emotional fractured and battered Tom. As we see him spiral downward during this unexpected trip to hell, he makes us feel it through some simple yet powerful little quirks and nuances in his performance. Pierre Yves Cardinal manages a charming menace to his turn as Francis that counter balances Dolan's Tom at every turn, while Lise Roy is great as the grieving mother and the fantastic Evelyne Brochu was magnetic and compelling as the girlfriend who got roped into this very uncomfortable situation.
That's really what "Tom at the Farm" is truly supposed to be, one extended genuinely uncomfortable situation and Dolan makes us feel it all right up to the climatic ending. It make take a few more years, but pretty soon for film fans everywhere seeing 'Directed by Xavier Dolan' on a movie poster will be more than enough for them to spend their hard earned money at the movie theatre.
5 out of 5 stars.
"Tom at the Farm" opens in theatres in Toronto and Vancouver tomorrow, please check with your local listings for show times.