Xavier Dolan’s directorial debut is a mixture of teenage angst, foresight, empathy, and most importantly it’s a work that is semi-autobiographical.
I Killed My Mother is the story of a 17-year-old, conflicted young man. He is a child of divorce, he’s gay, and as you probably guessed, he and his mother are at odds. Despite the fact that Hubert (the Dolan surrogate) is the protagonist, Dolan realizes what young people go through during their teenage years can often be extreme to the point of ridiculousness. Essentially, it’s embarrassing how heart-on-their-sleeve young people can act. He includes every trite thing an adolescent says to their parent, but he also gives us the reflected parental perspective, which is nuanced, and thoughtful. Here, Hubert’s mother is at her wit’s end, and although this forces her to lash out at Hubert, you can see when it happens she’s conflicted. Hubert, on the other hand, is in a mess of blind hatred, one that takes hours or days to escape.
Just as Hubert attempts to repair his relationship with his mother (he begins cooking, cleaning, doing his own laundry), she finds out he’s gay, and that his best friend, Antonin, is really not his best friend, he’s Hubert’s boyfriend.
She is not homophobic, and she understands that it’s tough to be gay at such a young age (or at any age) and she feels for him; however, within minutes the two are at odds, and their relationship crumbles to virtually nothing. She tells him he must live with his father, a man he almost never sees, save for holidays.
When he arrives at his father’s place, he’s overwhelmed with relief, almost to the point of tears – and then he notices his mother sitting in the living room. They tell him they’re sending him to boarding school. “I’m in grade 11!” He responds. “No one transfers schools in grade 11.”
It’s this kind of humour that keeps all the high-flying drama grounded. It also helps this film steer clear of becoming too much of a drag.
We’re forced to sit through Hubert’s embarrassingly confessional black-and-white monologues, which I’m certain Dolan includes because he knows this is how Hubert sees himself: some sort of James Dean “rebel without a cause.” (There are posters of Dean in Antonin’s bedroom).
The result of this aforementioned mix is a pleasure to watch.