As the roll into Christmas begins, so does the cinema return to its place within the winter routine of many Londoners’ lives. As always, there are Hollywood blockbusters galore to keep the masses happy, but if you seek something slightly more tantalizing, and Laurence Anyways has flown under your radar up until now, it’s probably time to fix that.
We follow Laurence Alia (Melvil Poupaud) and Fred Belair (Suzanne Clément), a happy couple whose relationship takes a turn after Laurence announces his wish to become a woman. While he faces problems with his decision from work and family, Fred struggles under the pressure of other’s opinions, and confusion over her own desires in life. Their relationship eventually falls apart, but their unresolved issues and lingering love for each other sends them on a tumultuous journey that spans a decade.
This is an achievement for the writer/director Xavier Dolan. At just 23 years of age, its an ambitious effort that takes a more serious tone than his first two features I Killed My Mother (2009) and Heartbeats (2010), bringing with it a mature air. Dealing with gender, sexuality, and the stereotypes that follow, Laurence Anyways cuts through to the heart of it all, relishing in it’s extremes of love and pain.
Set throughout the 90s, the excellent costumes are complimented by rich colouring, and a lighting design that all bring through a wonderful sense of realism. A powerful soundtrack matches this, set perfectly to reflect characters expectations of situations, in particular Laurence’s. Poupard is convincing in this challenging role, but Belair holds her own, giving a raw an emotional performance throughout.
With all this said, this film is by no means perfect, and its 168 minute running time is its major downfall. Finishing in style, it still lost a lot of its momentum along the way, and therefore lacks a certain level of impact at the end. While Dolan may have been fighting against the confinements of a two-hour lifespan, it only detracts from the overall enjoyment, and could have used trimming down.
While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Laurence Anyways has an audience, one of which I am definitely a member of. Give its long running time a chance, and you should hopefully be as suitably impressed and drawn in by the world that is Laurence and Fred’s epically tragic love story. Meanwhile, I am already anticipating Dolan’s next release Tom à la ferme, due for release in 2013.