TIFF 2013: Tom at the Farm (Xavier Dolan, CAN/FRA)

Tom at the Farm, although solid, is a hard film to critique at length based on its narrative simplicity, the titular Tom (Xavier Dolan) being introduced as a proverbial fish-out-of-water attending his lover’s funeral at the latter’s comparably titular farmstead. With said relationship remaining explicitly secretive, Tom must appear under false pretenses as merely a friend, frustrations building as a mother is kept in the dark and a brother maliciously exploits such valuable knowledge. Misleadingly if cleverly splicing in key genre-bending sequences, uncertainty remains prominent and appealing as Tom’s hard go of things is alternately alleviated and exacerbated.

In a roundabout way, Dolan’s latest is uncharacteristically slight in comparison to his preceding style-heavy tendencies, the straitlaced simplicity of Tom at the Farm shining through so as to superficially engage. Both Tom himself and the aforementioned lover’s sibling – Francis by name – are uniquely illustrated so as to perpetuate the central conflict that provides for a majority of the film’s substance. Building tensions surrounding Francis and Tom’s half-baked coverup lead to some entertaining if foreseeable blowups, however all things come to a head if only to necessarily reveal a requisite amount of resolution for us as viewers.

All key attributes considered, Tom at the Farm is alternately slick and unremarkable in the realm of inventive storytelling. Dolan continues to exhibit his prowess as a still-burgeoning, soon-to-be premier generational filmmaker, continuing a personal trend comprised of originality-sustaining successive efforts. It isn’t his strongest by inevitable comparison, what with noticeable repetition serving only to three-dimensionally build core characters and competently wade through intermittent discomfort, intrigue and unpredictability.

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