Perhaps it’s better to know the director before going in to see “Laurence Anyways”: Xavier Dolan is all of 23 years old, yet this is already the Quebecois filmmaker’s fourth feature. In other words, be prepared to cut the prolific (and many say brilliant) lad some slack. Bushels of it. Clocking in at nearly three hours, “Laurence Anyways” requires much patience and goodwill to get through its veritable black forest of sexual/gender angst, crammed with so many ideas and cinematic tributes to the late 1980s it will leave you dazed and confused.
The story traces the 10-year relationship between Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) and Fred (Suzanne Clement), two earnest young lovers in Montreal who try to make a go of it. Until the day Laurence announces that he can’t take life as a man anymore and decides to be a woman instead.
Fred is torn between supporting her longtime partner and packing up to leave. She decides to stick around, though (understandably) stress takes its toll on her frayed nerves. Laurence isn’t much help — he’s too busy basking in the delight of wearing wigs and dresses, or struggling to come into his own as a newbie transsexual. Sadly, being a woman doesn’t necessarily make Laurence nicer or more generous; it just creates a mountain of woe for poor Fred.