ByDavid Opie, writer at Creators.co
The day someone green-lights a Marvel Zombies Ghibli film directed by Xavier Dolan is the day I will be happy. Any day now...
David Opie

Praise is readily handed out to Hollywood actors who turn their hand to making movies. Sure, the likes of George Clooney and Ben Affleck have certainly impressed us during their time in the directors chair, but did the lazy bastards also write, edit and design the costumes in their movies?

#XavierDolan has been out-auteuring everyone else in the business since his 19th birthday, when his debut film, I Killed My Mother, first hit arthouse cinemas — and the French-Canadian filmmaker has only continued to impress since then.

[Via Kino Lorber Films]
[Via Kino Lorber Films]

We could talk endlessly about how Dolan directed the record-breaking video for Adele's 'Hello', how his first film received a 9-minute standing ovation at Cannes, or even how Dolan had already made six award-winning movies by the age of 26... Instead though, we'll just let the films do the talking, as we break down exactly why Canada's 'Enfant Terrible' is the best director you've never heard of.

2009: I Killed My Mother (J'ai Tué Ma Mère)

[Via Kino Lorber Films]
[Via Kino Lorber Films]

Plot Summary:

17 year-old Hubert Minel struggles to navigate the pitfalls of adolescence, discovering sex, friendship and artistry along the way. Throughout it all, one thing remains constant: his contempt for his mother, Chantale.

[Via Kino Lorber Films]
[Via Kino Lorber Films]

Why It's Amazing:

Had anyone else directed I Killed My Mother, critics would have lavished praise on Xavier Dolan for his fierce portrayal of a young gay man struggling to find his place in the world, but the fact that he also directed the film elevates it to a whole new level. Dolan wrote the semi-autobiographical script for I Killed My Mother when he was just sixteen years old, and completed work on the award-winning film at the age of nineteen. Yep. Nineteen. It's hard to pinpoint one standout scene, but the raw potential of Dolan's talent is probably most evident in the whirlwind paint scene, which features one of the most memorable sex scenes in the history of arthouse cinema.

Best Scene:

What The Critics Said:

Rick Groen, Globe & Mail

"A coming-of-age tale as ferociously raw as its teller -- the very young Xavier Dolan."

Brandon Judell, Indiewire

"This just might be as close as we'll ever get to seeing "Catcher in the Rye" on the screen. Truly hilarious."

Hollywood Equivalent: Think Squid And The Whale meets Perks Of Being A Wallflower, but more French and with better music.

2010: Heartbeats (Les Amours Imaginaires)

[Via IFC Films]
[Via IFC Films]

Plot Summary:

Francis and Marie are very close friends, but their relationship suffers when they both become infatuated with the same man, whose sexuality is more complex than it first appears. As the three are drawn closer and closer to one another, obsession threatens to tear them all apart.

[Via IFC Films]
[Via IFC Films]

Why It's Amazing:

Aside from music videos directed by the likes of Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze, it's hard to imagine a movie more stylish than Heartbeats. Throughout every second of the film's running time, it's clear that Dolan has planned every single detail down to immaculate precision, from the framing devices used to the fashion on display. Never before has teen lust been rendered with such aching beauty — and with a killer soundtrack to boot.

Best Scene:

What The Critics Said:

Eugene Novikov, Film Blather

"May be the most raw and visceral cinematic portrayal of infatuation I've ever seen, with nearly every shot conveying aching, unrequited desire."

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Not too deep but oh so pretty, "Heartbeats" presents a hyper-stylized look at a love triangle, a sort of "Jules and Jim" for millennials."

Hollywood Equivalent: Imagine if the teenagers from Cruel Intentions starred in a modern day music video that paid homage to Dangerous Liaisons.

2012: Laurence Anyways

[Via Breaking Glass Pictures]
[Via Breaking Glass Pictures]

Plot Summary:

On the day after his 35th birthday, French teacher Laurence finally reveals to his fiancée that he's always wanted to become a woman. The story follows the entangled lives of these two lovers as they both struggle to deal with Laurence's transformation.

[Via Breaking Glass Pictures]
[Via Breaking Glass Pictures]

Why It's Amazing:

With a running time of over two and a half hours, Laurence Anyways is both Dolan's most epic and challenging film; this decade-spanning story is a more than worthy addition to his filmography. Melvil Poupaud delivers a truly remarkable performance in the titular role of Laurence, immersing himself in the role with every fibre of his being, all while Suzanne Clément's talent anchors the doomed romance through a poignant sadness.

Best Scene:

What The Critics Said:

Landon Palmer, Film School Rejects:

"..a symphony of sound and image, an epic account of a dynamic and complicated relationship, and one of the most powerful and affecting love stories I've seen on film in quite some time."

Ray Pride, New City:

"Drenching melodrama, reckless, ravishing. Dolan's style, to some, may seem overheated, flamboyant, baroque, immature, indulgent, extravagant, but it is what it is and what it is, at his keenest moments, is fabulous."

Hollywood Equivalent: Imagine if Hollywood movies like Dallas Buyers Club and This Boy's Life treated trans issues with more poise and dignity — that's Laurence Anyways.

2013: Tom at the Farm (Tom à la ferme)

[Via Amplify Releasing]
[Via Amplify Releasing]

Plot Summary:

After the tragic death of his boyfriend, Guillaume, Tom visits the family home in order to attend the funeral — but upon arriving, he soon discovers that no one knows his relationship to the deceased. Before he can even begin to understand what's happening, Tom becomes embroiled in a twisted game of cat and mouse with Guillame's brother, a violent, manipulative man whose darkness bubbles just under the surface.

[Via Amplify Releasing]
[Via Amplify Releasing]

Why It's Amazing:

Based on a play by Michel Marc Bouchard, Tom At The Farm represents a marked change of pace for Dolan, who explores darker manifestations of sexuality here in this tense psychological thriller which fills viewers with unease from the very first scene. Tom At The Farm is a difficult film to watch at times, yet still contains a number of standout scenes that bear Dolan's distinctive mark, even though he didn't write the original script. You've never seen a psychodrama quite like this and if you don't like it, you'll have Xavier to answer to.

Best Scene:

What The Critics Said:

Emily Buder, indieWIRE:

"Grief, lies and webs of deceit are the flesh-eating monsters. The film exudes a living poetry.... Dolan has the ability to render any banal activity ominous."

Stephen Holden, New York Times:

"Wildly entertaining, sexy and beautifully shot in the Canadian heartland."

Hollywood Equivalent: Imagine if Black Swan and Mulholland Drive were set on a French Canadian farmhouse and the women were replaced by men.

2014: Mommy

[Via Lionsgate]
[Via Lionsgate]

Plot Summary:

A widowed mother regains custody of her 15 year old son, but the two clash violently as they struggle to deal with the boy's behavioral issues. Things seem to take a turn for the better, though, when the pair befriend a peculiar neighbor called Kyla — but how long will this balance last?

[Via Lionsgate]
[Via Lionsgate]

Why It's Amazing:

Mommy was Dolan's first film to achieve box office success, becoming the highest grossing movie in Quebec for 2014 — but none of that would matter if the movie itself wasn't very good. Fortunately, Mommy is a tour de force, combining every one of Dolan's eccentricities into a masterful piece of filmmaking that will leave you breathless and excited about the future of cinema. From the explosive dialogue and fluid use of music, to a never-seen-before technical stunt that will literally change the way you watch films, Mommy is a genuinely underrated masterpiece.

Best Scene:

What The Critics Said:

Ty Burr, Boston Globe:

"Dolan is able to weave dialogue, camerawork, a fluid yet urgent editing style, and a magpie's ear for pop music into a cinematic world that you can almost hold in your hand before it starts spilling over."

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle:

"Dolan is only 25, and though he doesn't have Orson Welles beat, this has to be one of the best films ever written and directed by a 25-year-old"

Hollywood Equivalent: Imagine if the kid from Boyhood grew up in the house of Mommie Dearest and listened to a lot of Oasis.

2016: It's Only the End of the World (Juste La Fin Du Monde)

[Via Entertainment One]
[Via Entertainment One]

Plot Summary:

Twelve years after he first left his family behind, a terminally ill writer returns to announce that he's dying, but bitterness and resentment cloud his attempts to reconnect.

[Via Entertainment One]
[Via Entertainment One]

Why It's Amazing:

Despite the mixed reviews, Dolan maintains that It's Only the End of the World is his best film yet and Cannes seemed to agree, awarding the young director with the Grand Prix for his efforts. The dense, claustrophobic script wears its stage origins proudly, setting out to make the audience feel just as uncomfortable as the film's protagonist. It's Only the End of the World features a barrage of tight close-ups and simmering performances from some of the French speaking world's finest talents, including Léa Seydoux, Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel.

Best Scene:

What The Critics Said:

Peter Howell, Toronto Star:

"It maintains an almost unbearable tension throughout its 95-minute running time, as an A-list cast of French actors tear into each other over long-simmering family conflicts, the camera just inches from their faces."

Peter Debruge, Variety:

"Dolan has found a way to exasperate and exhaust his audience, but he has also achieved a completely unexpected catharsis at the end of an agonizing hour and a half. Standing there on the grave of dreams, he knows why the caged bird sings."

Hollywood Equivalent: Combine the unbearable social tension of Carnage with the family disputes of August: Osage County, and you begin to scratch the surface of It's Only The End Of The World.

[Via Breaking Glass Pictures]
[Via Breaking Glass Pictures]

See also:

If none of those masterpieces of world cinema tickled your fancy, Dolan's next movie, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, also happens to be his first foray into English-language films. Plus, the cast boasts the incredible talents of Jessica Chastain, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates and Kit Harington. Failing that though, you could always just watch the French language version of Twilight and listen to Dolan's sexy dub for the role of Jacob. Though if that's the only thing you take away from this article, then maybe it really is the end of the world after all.

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