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The third feature from Montreal's Xavier Dolan (J'ai tué ma mère, Les Amours imaginaires) centres on a young bohemian couple whose defiantly exclusive relationship is sent spiraling when the man, Laurence, confesses that he believes he's transgendered. This audacious and searing mediation on love and sexuality is shot in hyper-florid style and driven by gutsy performances.
An epic romance about an untenable love affair, Xavier Dolan’s third feature, Laurence Anyways, is his most stylish and mature work to date. The film centres on the tortured, on-again, off-again relationship between Laurence (Melvil Poupaud), a writer and teacher, and his girlfriend Fred (Suzanne Clément), a line producer on film productions. As the film opens, they’re ensconced in one of their favourite places: the car wash, a fitting emblem for their claustrophobic relationship. Devout bohemians who have little interest in conventional mores, they lead a charmed existence buoyed by their contempt for virtually everyone else on the planet. That is, it’s a charmed existence until Laurence breaks down in tears and confesses that he believes he’s a woman trapped in a man’s body. Initially shocked, Fred soon decides to carry on as if nothing has happened. But as family pressures and her own doubts begin to mount, the couple drifts apart.
Shot in a kind of hyper-florid style to capture the extreme vicissitudes of the love affair, Laurence Anyways feels like Wuthering Heights relocated to the wilds of Montreal, with a transgender Heathcliff and a punked-out Catherine. There are countless breathtaking visual flourishes: the wind and water seem to be attuned to the lovers’ emotions; a chance encounter with another transgendered person leads Laurence to a squad of aging cross-dressers who congregate in an unused but perfectly preserved ballroom, which functions as both a symbol of repressed desires and suggests a world of possibilities.
The crux of the film is this: how can Fred and Laurence stay together when biology — and society — are lined up against them? Can they survive being apart? For Laurence, it’s a non-issue: he’s still the same person. Fred, however, isn’t so sure.
Driven by exceptional and gutsy performances by Poupad, Nathalie Baye (as Laurence’s mother), and especially Clément, Laurence Anyways emerges as possibly the most audacious and searing meditation on love and sexuality ever made in this country.