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I was one of the lucky people to see this movie tonight at the Dutch
festival 'Roze Filmdagen' (Pink Film Days) in Amsterdam before it will
hit the art-house cinemas here in april. It was the opening film and
the festival director Werner Borkes made clear in his opening speech
that he felt like a very lucky man to be able to show us this movie
already. I must say, the expectations were high and growing and most of
the time high expectations are hard to live up to. But not this time.
Canadian wonder child Xavier Dolan (born in '89) adapted the play by Michel Marc Bouchard, who co-wrote the script for the movie. Dolan is also playing the lead character Tom, who visits the family of his deceased lover for the funeral. The mother and homophobic brother live on a farm and when Tom tries to leave after the funeral, the brother doesn't let him. What follows is a psychological warfare between the characters and the big question is: will Tom be able to leave and does he want to
The movie is tensed from beginning till the end and the music (with a lot of strings) is used well to accompany and strengthen the secluded and somewhat claustrophobic life on the farm. Besides the tension, there is also a lot of humor in the situations and dialog that seems to turn on a dime into an awkward situation for Tom. Especially the part where Tom is talking over dinner about the so-called girlfriend Sara with the mother, who doesn't have a clue what Tom's relationship with her son is, and the brother is a memorable scene. All the actors are great and deliver the lines from their toes.
Xavier Dolan is especially one to keep an eye on, this is already his third movie in his 24 years young life and he knows how to tell a great story the right way.
I've recently seen "Tom à la ferme", and it's safe to say that Xavier
Dolan is one of the most important directors alive today. With just 25
years, he has proved to have the maturity and intelligence to make
amazing films, which are not only magical in their visual aspect, but
in the depth of their screenplays as well.
Having said this, "Tom á la ferme" is no exception. Great movie, wonderful to see, and a very interesting story which is, as always, about love. However, every time Dolan shows us his vision of love, he does it in a very different way. This time is about a lost love, and the submissive aspect of it. Brilliant performances as always, all taking place in a very gloomy farm, the authorial work of Xavier Dolan just keeps getting better, so my advice: let's pay attention to this wonderful filmmaker.
This film succeeds in pulling off what "Stranger By The Lake" totally
failed to do. The darkness draws you in and intrigues us, and the
characters are brilliantly acted and engaging.
Some of the editing is slightly strange, or perhaps the narrative would be a better way to describe it, i.e. there are a couple of transitions between scenes where I found I was having to piece things together arbitrarily, in my opinion, meaning I had to concentrate hard. However I'd much rather this than everything being spelled out in children's building blocks as is the way with many American films.
This is one of the few "gay" films I've seen that had hardly anything superficial and stereotypical about it, and wasn't depressing to watch as a gay man.
Hats off to the guy who played the crazy brother: dark and scary, but the homoerotic tones and suppressed desires sound through his silence, creating a fascinating villain, again, something which the aforementioned other French-language gay thriller completely failed to do, managing only to be faintly embarrassing and ridiculous.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 'Tom a la Ferme', Canadian director Xavier Dolan creates a maximum
of suspense with a minimum of resources. Three people in an isolated
farmhouse, a secret shared by two of them and the psychotic behaviour
of one of them - that's it. Despite the lack of action and the slow
pacing, the story is so intense it gripped me from start to finish.
Tom is the lover of the recently deceased Guillaume, and visits Guillaume's mother and brother to attend the funeral. But Guillaume's mother doesn't know her son was gay, so the brother makes Tom act as if he was straight, and forces him to talk about an imaginary girlfriend. The brother doesn't hesitate to use violence in order to keep up the charade, and even immobilizes Tom's car so he can't leave. While secrets from the past are slowly uncovered, the situation becomes more and more unbearable for Tom.
More than once, this movie made me think about Hitchcock's best films. There is the very prominent soundtrack, complete with shrieking violins. Also, like Hitchcock, Dolan uses location as an essential element in the story. And there are small scenes that add to the unsettling atmosphere, like a dead cow being dragged away, a taxi driver who refuses to enter the driveway of the farmhouse, or the blood on the hands after the birth of a calf.
'Tom a la Ferme' is not perfect. It is rather slow, and some scenes are a bit strange. For example, Guilaume's mother bursts out in hysterical laughter after Tom quotes some perverse language from the imaginary girlfriend. But overall, this is impressive film making.
(By the way: there's a very good a cappella interpretation of Michel Legrand's 'Les Moulins de mon Coeur' during the first scene. It isn't listed on IMDb' soundtrack section, but apparently it's by Canadian actress/singer Kathleen Fortin).
This film tells the story of a man, called Tom, who pays an unannounced
visit to his late boyfriend's farm in a small town in Quebec. He meets
the brother who is violent and widely feared by the whole town. Yet,
Tom is attracted to danger and stays at the farm.
This story is really captivating. It has so many subtle clues as to what the psychologically disturbed characters are thinking, which explain their behaviour. It drives viewers to think deeply about the reasons for their seemingly inexplicable behaviour, which is engaging and thrilling. Tom is clearly very attracted to being abused, and his psychological state is portrayed vividly by the film. There are some really dangerous moments in the film, making it thrilling. I really enjoyed watching "Tom at the Farm", and I look forward to watching other films by the same director.
To follow the chronic order, I decide to watch this film before Dolan's
latest MOMMY (2014), which has just freshly arrived. TOM AT THE FARM is
Canadian prodigy and Cannes darling Xavier Dolan's fourth film, adapted
from Michel Marc Bouchard's play, this marks the first time he is not
the sole writer for his works, it is also a veer of style for him,
delves into the murky suspense and violence of a psychological
thriller, and notably, in its highly strained chasing-in-the-forest
incident near the coda, it conspicuously recalls another exceptional
gay-themed thriller Alain Guiraudie's STRANGERS BY THE LAKE (2013,
8/10) of the same year, but these two films end with two completely
contrasting options for our protagonists who both face irresistible
sexual attraction from the sort who is too dangerous for their own
Sported as a perennially tacky curly blond, Dolan plays Tom, an urban advertisement editor who has just lost his boyfriend Guillaume in an accident. Driving en route to attend his funeral in a remote farm, Tom meets Guillaume's family members, his mother Agathe (Roy) and his brother Francis (Cardinal) who lives with her and whose existence has never been informed to Tom until now. On top of that, Agathe seems to be unwitting of Guillaume's sexual orientation, so Tom has to comfort her grievance by telling a white lie that Guillaume has a girlfriend named Sarah (Brochu), who in fact is just one of their common friends. Yet, Francis is the one who actually knows it all, his violent and homophobic behaviour towards Tom strikes a sadomasochistic thrill, which is not merely one-sided, as the film not-so- subtly implies Francis is a closeted homosexual himself. They both desperately or compulsively trace the resemblance or remnants of the deceased in each other, to the degree, Tom actually complies to act as a voluntary hostage on the farm and even enjoys the pastoral drudgery. One night Sarah's visit inopportunely provokes Agathe's deeply- buried agony, while apart from Francis' overcompensated interest in Sarah, Tom learns a horrible episode of his past from a bar owner, which overturns his perception of the tight corner where he is in. The second day, he decides to flee and turns his life back on track.
Here, Dolan again plays the Aspect Ratio gimmick, in the scenes where Tom is physically abused by Francis, it changes from the usual 1.85:1 to a more smothering letterbox; and if one is familiar with his narcissistic disposition, here he continues to wallow in close-ups, mostly on himself especially when Tom is anguish-ridden or being suffocated to barely catch a breath under Francis' masculine domination. While the entire film is coherently enveloped in an overcast dreariness, the close-knitted cast (both Roy and Brochu are from the original play) has done an amazing job in establishing the engaging tensions and occasionally a smack of warmth glistening. Roy and Cardinal are the MVPs, the former is offered a soul-pulverising flare-up while being consistently emotive during all her presence, and the latter beefs up his boorish machismo with very disarming appeal which superbly gilds an atmosphere of ambiguity in Francis' deadly mystique; on top of that the two together also builds up a detrimental mother-son relationship, which also wittily insinuates what has happened to the mother in the end, it is an innovative modus operandi to justify the plot-line without revealing everything in front of viewer's eyes.
As for our triple threat Dolan, with his Joker-alike makeup, he shows beyond doubt that apart from the ostentatious style bandwagon, he certainly is on his way to mature into a multi-faceted filmmaker who is able to tackle with the darkest corner of humanity and leaves his own trademark on it. A final nod to Dolan's cherrypick of songs, Rufus Wainwright's GOING TO A TOWN, appears in the ending credit, is an utterly poignant theme song for Tom's bumpy ride.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tom a la ferme is probably the most commercial of Dolan's films up to this point in his career. I say this because the movie includes a lot of the features that a good psychological thriller uses to keep its audience engaged. The chasing scenes, the intense score, the many close ups of our main character played with intensity and magnetism by Dolan himself. Dolan introduces a complex relationship between the villain and the victim, one we don't often see in this type of genre. While the villain here always remains violent, dangerous and cruel, at time he's also seen to be extremely vulnerable, and in a way is in need of his prey not for food, not for fulfillment of the usual need for sadism that describes such villains, but for company and affection. In his own twisted way Francis is dependent on Tom not leaving, as he does not want to go back to this lonely and secluded life he found himself in after choosing to stay behind and take care of his mom. This duty Francis feels to please his mom and help her with the farm as well as the mother's sorrow and pain felt in the aftermath of her son's death is one of the prominent topics in Dolan's films, the bond between mother and son. At some point in the film, this desire of Francis to keep Tom in the farm goes beyond the need for compassion, with scenes of sexual tension between the two becoming more and more common as the movie progresses. After attempting and failing to escape, Tom starts to find the eerie and intense life in this dysfunctional household get to him as he refuses Sarah's offer to get him out of the farm, and in a way developing a Stockholm syndrome. The lamb that once needed to escape the wolf's nest, now finds his position there and realises his importance in consoling the grieving mom and helping out the man that needs him and at the same time abuses him this strange co- dependency is in fact what makes this thriller so intriguing. This comes to an end when Tom finally realises the danger he's facing after he finds out about Francis' past. All in all, while the film provides a storyline engaging enough to keep the audience watching, it never really manages to wow the audience at any point, nor does it manage to convince us of the credibility of its characters, with a lack of justification for many of their actions.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Finally I got the chance to see the fourth film made by Xavier Dolan.
First of all, congrats on getting into Cannes. Looking forward to see
I have been waiting to see Tom at the farm for way too long. I have to say I hate an ending like this but I don't see any other way to end strongly and kind of liked the ending. Many people seem to be doing it (If memory serves, C.O.G. has the same ending). I like how the movie captures the aspect of what every character wants, needs and fears. It was thrilling and make me really want to know what happens the next second. I have to say I love the depiction of the desire to control and to submit. Nothing else is more satisfying to experience.
Good job. As always, there is a mother figure that is interesting to consider. Just like Tom, I'm completely subjected to the brother and I love the part that the brother yells "I need you in my life". /Sorry if I got a little personal there.
I watched the end title through and there is a little plot left in the very end. It's not very necessary, but I guess it gives some people who must need a resolve some consolation.
Still thinking about the corn field scene. I have been expecting to see a sex scene but I'm happy with the fact that there isn't one. Making a exciting movie without a sex scene is like writing a good song without cursing, which makes it all more powerful.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
.... and I think Xavier Dolan threw in a subconscious symbolic message
no one has picked up on.
If you want to read about the plot of this movie there are plenty of reviews here that focus on that. I want to write something here that occurred to me maybe 3 or 4 days after viewing 'Tom at the Farm'.
Near the end of the film after Tom has escaped from the farm and evaded the attempt by Francis to capture Tom in the woods, we see Francis walking away from the camera and on the back of his jacket is an American flag! That image left me a bit confused as to why a bold American flag.
Then it occurred to me that maybe Dolan is making a statement that Francis represents what the USA is today - a neurotic phobic bully. And that is what we are given in the Francis character. The mother 'Agathe' represents the many citizens of the US that refuse to see or try to comprehend what is happening in their country. The unknown 'victim' of Francis represents the countries that have dared to 'talk-back' to what America does. And Tom, he represents the friendly nations to America and what Francis does to Tom is what the US has and is doing daily to it's friendly nations.
I realize this may be reading more than really exist in this movie but ... this is the effect 'Tom at the Farm' had upon me.
This cinematic baby of director/writer/actor Xavier Dolan is a
moderately successful suspense film that is prevented from being more
successful by its desire to be strange and enigmatic rather than
forthright about its intentions.
Dolan plays a young gay man who visits the family of his recently deceased lover to attend the funeral. There, he finds himself adored by the oblivious mother who didn't know her son was gay, and hated by the crazy, violent brother who hates that his sibling was gay and intends to keep that knowledge from his mother at all costs. This plays out mostly as you would expect, with an increasing sense of claustrophobic dread. Why Dolan's character doesn't just leave this potentially dangerous situation is adequately explained through various plot devices, some of them imposed on him by external circumstances, some of them arising from his own internalized motivations. Dolan gives a very good performance, but the actor who plays the abusive antagonist is poorly cast, not menacing or threatening enough to be convincing. And a late-act plot development involving a fake female love interest for the dead brother does more to derail the movie than heighten its suspense.
Still, those looking for an off-kilter watch will probably be satisfied. This movie reminded much in tone of last year's release "Strangers by the Lake," though that is a much better film than this one.
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