Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Original Title: Matthias Et Maxime
Canada/France, 2019. Fonds Quebecor, MK2, PHI Studio, SODEC, Sons of Manual, Super Ecran, Telefilm Canada, The Harold Greenberg Fund. Screenplay by Xavier Dolan. Cinematography by Andre Turpin. Produced by Xavier Dolan, Nancy Grant, Elisha Karmitz, Nathanael Karmitz. Music by Jean-Michel Blais. Production Design by Colombe Raby. Costume Design by Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Gayraud. Film Editing by Xavier Dolan. Cannes Film Festival 2019.
The very prolific Xavier Dolan returns to his native Montreal for an exploration of masculinity, friendship and the brittle line between intimacy and eroticism that can exist between two people who have left their relationship unexamined for too long. A trip to a friend’s cottage puts best friends Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas) and Maxime (Dolan) in an awkward position when their host’s little sister asks them to be in her experimental short film that she’s making for school. The scene she wants them to perform requires them to make out, which they are willing to do in order to prove that it’s no big deal; we don’t see the event occur, but when we next catch up with both characters, they’re no longer spending time together or communicating, and Max is preparing to go work for a few years in Australia. Matthias climbs the business ladder while Max deals with breaking ties with his addict mother, then eventually another social gathering brings them together and challenges them to either face their fears over their friendship or stop being close forever. Dolan’s usually relentlessly heavy hand, which often involves unearned climaxes and an excessive running time, are not present in this more thoughtful and mature work that has a great deal of sympathy for the pain of these two characters’ confusions. That said, even at a mere two hours, it somehow feels like it’s too long, perhaps because a less indulgent Dolan is still an indulgent filmmaker, and he includes more scenes than just those that mean to explore the story’s trajectory or the characters’ inner life. It doesn’t help that the leads, despite great chemistry between them, aren’t convincing as long-time best friends, nor do they, for that matter, convince you that they’re the same age or that kissing other guys is such an issue for either of them. For all its flaws, though, it’s a film whose finest moments are worth savouring, with a cast who all deliver fine performances: Beach Rats star Harris Dickinson makes a cameo as a crummy Toronto businessman, while Quebec luminaries shine in smaller roles, including Anne-Marie Cadieux, Louise Bombardier and Dolan’s frequent maternal collaborator, Anne Dorval.