LGBTQ Heroes: Xavier Dolan – setting the standard for queer cinema
If you’re looking for some quality queer films to add to your lock-down watch-list, check out the work of prolific filmmaker Xavier Dolan.
Let’s re-cap some of his milestones.
Born in 1989, Dolan was grew up in Montreal in Canada. He began his career in the film industry as an actor, while still at school. He directed his first feature film in 2009 – at the age of 20.
I Killed My Mother (2009)
A French-language film – J’ai tué ma mère – this was Dolan’s feature film debut as a director. He wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the film. He had begun writing the semi-autobiographical script when he was 16.
The film was a critical success – it won three awards from the Director’s Fortnight program at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival – and helped establish Dolan as a creative force to be reckoned with.
Dolan’s second feature film – Les Amours imaginaires – follows two friends who are infatuated with the same mysterious young man and their friendship suffers. The film was critically acclaimed, but was unable to find an audience beyond French-language markets.
Laurence Anyways (2012)
Dolan’s third feature film gives us the story of an impossible love between a woman named Fred (Frédérique) and a Trans woman named Laurence (then living as a man) who reveals her inner desire to become her true self: a woman. Set during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the story spans a decade, chronicling the doomed love of Fred and Laurence, as well as the trials and tribulations that they face. The film wasn’t a commercial success.
Tom at the Farm (2013)
For his next project, Dolan adapted Michel Marc Bouchard’s play – Tom à la ferme – a psychological thriller. Although it was well-received across the festival circuit in 2013, the film wasn’t released in the US until 2015, which seemed to limit its audience reach.
Dolan hit another career high with his fifth feature film – Mommy.
The film shared the Jury Prize in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, and won the Cesar Award for Best Foreign Film. Mommy proved to be another breakthrough in Dolan’s career as a director – it was his first film to achieve significant success at the box office.
It’s Only the End of the World (2016)
Dolan’s next project was an adaptation of the play Juste la fin du monde by Jean-Luc Lagarce. Stacked with family conflict, the story is about a young playwright who reunites with his family after a 12-year absence to inform them he is going to die.
The film starred Marion Cotillard, Gaspard Ulliel, Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux, and Nathalie Baye.
The film received mixed reviews.
The Death & Life of John F. Donovan (2018)
The film follows John F. Donovan (Kit Harington), a Hollywood film actor whose life and career are turned upside-down when a gossip columnist exposes his private correspondence with an 11-year-old British fan. The film also stars Susan Sarandon as Donovan’s mother and Kathy Bates as his manager.
The film had its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, however the film wasn’t a critical success.
Matthias et Maxime (2019)
The film centres on the titular Matthias and Maxime, lifelong friends whose relationship is tested when they act in a short film whose script calls for them to kiss each other, leaving them both questioning their sexual identities when the experience awakens their long-dormant feelings for each other.
It had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on 22 May 2019.
Dolan also directed the video for Adele’s 2015 track, Hello.