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Is Xavier Dolan a genius? Maybe so. The Quebecois actor/filmmaker — with a beautiful, impish face and brooding eyes — is only 25 and has already made six films and appeared in 17. With his model looks and quirky sense of aesthetics, Dolan could switch careers to become a designer for Gucci any time he likes. He certainly has “media darling” written all over him and sports the ambience of a man who can be at home on a runway or taking position behind a camera. In the meantime, there’s “Tom at the Farm.”

Dolan’s films deal with two main issues: homosexuality and mother-son relationships. His previous work, “Laurence Anyways” (2012), featured a man who one day announces that he’s transgender, leaving his girlfriend to deal with the consequences. She ends up attending to the needs of his new identity and nurturing him like a mom.

“Tom at the Farm” is more brutal and straightforward — the mother this time is an old woman and she’s a monster of denial and self-pity. The titular Tom (played by Dolan) goes to the funeral of his dead lover, Guillaume, held at the farm where Guillaume grew up. Guillaume’s mother, Agathe (Lise Roy), laments that her late son’s girlfriend — the “bitch” — hasn’t shown up, thinking that Tom is just a friend from the office. Agathe’s other son Francis (Pierre Yves-Cardinal) has been feeding her lies, ostensibly to protect her from the truth of Guillaume’s sexual orientation.

Tom at the Farm
Rating
Director Xavier Dolan
Run Time 102 minutes
Language French (subtitled in Japanese)
Opens Oct. 25

Tom sees that Guillaume’s family is hopelessly insular and homophobic, but he sticks around after the funeral for reasons he can’t quite explain.

Things turns from bad to worse when Francis grows increasingly violent, emotionally blackmailing Tom to “pay up” for being gay and having loved his brother. None of that makes sense to Tom but he stays, even after a climactic sequence where Francis chases Tom through a huge cornfield and beats him as he lies on the ground. The whole thing is so erotically charged and fashionably choreographed that most of the frames could be a Diesel ad. Gabriel Yared’s clinging, haunting score envelops this scene and the whole movie like some poisonous, inescapable web.

This is Dolan’s first adaptation (from a play by Michel Marc Bouchard) and he takes a different approach from his previous works. As in “Laurence Anyways,” Dolan has a weakness for wanting to show what it’s like to be gay and misunderstood, but “Tom” ultimately comes off as a horror story about surviving the aftermath of a lover’s death. Gay or straight, the pain and loneliness is the same, which is something Francis can’t seem to fathom. Our hero wants to escape from the farm but at the same time he is powerless as he senses Guillaume’s presence, which pulls him back to the depressing rural landscape.

There’s nothing for Tom at the farm, but you get the feeling there’s nothing waiting for him in the city either. He’s grieving for Guillaume, and Francis knows too well how to manipulate that. Like sex without a shred of intimacy.

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