It’s hard to believe that at age 26, one would already have the moniker of internationally acclaimed writer – director. Yet with five films in release, Montreal’s Xavier Dolan continues to roll with his auteur take on relationships. His fourth film, “Tom At The Farm,” opened the Venice Film Festival in 2013, but didn’t get a timely U.S. release. But after the success of last year’s striking, “Mommy,” (which per Box Office Mojo made nearly $3.5 million, a robust figure for a foreign film), distributor Amplify is set to release this equally impressive film on Friday, August 14 in Los Angeles and other select cities.
Based on the Michel Marc Bouchard’s play of the same name, Dolan co-adapted the play along with Bouchard into a slow-burning, psychological-sexual thriller. Dolan stars as Tom, a young man traveling from the city to the rural farm of his deceased lover Guillaume’s family. When he arrives, he finds the house and surrounding barn empty, except for a few cows. Letting himself into the house, he falls asleep at the kitchen table only to be awoken by Guillaume’s mother, Agathe (Lise Roy), some hours later.
Agathe has no idea who Tom is, nor that her beloved son was gay. Hurt that his lover never acknowledged Tom to his family, Tom tiptoes around the issue and simply says he’s a friend from work. However with Guillaume’s brother, Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), this lie doesn’t fly. Francis is a handsome brute, who challenges Tom in a sexually aggressive manner, while harboring a dark secret of his own.
Staying longer than planned due to Agathe’s and later Francis’ request, Tom starts to adapt himself into this new family. Is it because of grief, or some sort of a perverse Stockholm Syndrome? Even when Guillaume’s supposed “girlfriend” Sarah (“Orphan Black’s” Evelyne Brochu) arrives at co-worker’s Tom’s request, sexual stakes are ratcheted up between Tom, Francis, and newcomer Sarah.
It’s an intense ride for Tom and audiences. Dolan elicits fine performances from his small but highly skilled cast. The film’s technical elements are strong with Dolan serving as editor and costume designer as well. Cinematographer Andre Turpin captures the moody, claustrophobic space within the house, farm and adjoining cornfield. Watch too for Dolan’s play with the screen’s aspect ratio near the film’s end, which foreshadows the visual play in his later film, “Mommy.” Also kudos go out to Gabriel Yared’s complex, haunting score.
“Tom At The Farm” is 102 minutes and Not Rated and opens in Los Angeles on August 14 at Sundance Sunset Theatres and Laemmle’s Playhouse 7.