Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tom at the Farm Review

I was born on April 19th, 1984. The world and I, together for 11,538 days. Memories of long ago come and go from my mind constantly, moments of joy, the dread of regret, the seeming minutiae of a mostly forgettable day that still lingers in my subconscious. Decades of decisions ranging from the silly and small to those that have proved to be critical, but it is one that I have never had to make which polarizes others politically, religiously and emotionally to this day: the gender of who I love. 

I still remember my first real crush. I was in elementary school and she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I bought her a Lion King themed present for her birthday, and her reaction to said gift would make or break the potential for romance. She liked it but she loved what my buddy gave her more. Their week long relationship flourished. I never had a chance. 


Tom is feeling a different level of heartbreak, the kind that cuts deep and leaves a scar. The kind that matters. Tom was born, he lives and he loved. There is no asterisk next to that word, no qualifier to establish that his love is different. It isn't. He loved. 

The devastation of losing that person. I can't imagine it. I watched as Tom drove through the beautiful countryside on the way to his boyfriends funeral and I wondered how profound that sort of pain is. These sort of thoughts are commonplace whenever I experience the remarkable work of filmmaker Xavier Dolan because he may deliver fiction but he does so in such a factual, honest and personal way. He plays a key lead role in four of his five features (the lone exclusion being Mommy) and his ability to perform his own vision with such precision and intensity is vital to the success of his work. Success is the appropriate word, as at the ripe old age of 26 Dolan is already responsible for 5 films ranging in quality from good to excellent. Tom at the Farm flirts with the latter frequently but it eventually settles for somewhere in between. 

His scenic drive eventually concludes when he reaches his destination, and there he discovers that his love may have been real but it was hidden from his late boyfriend Guillaume's mother. To share something so powerful but be afraid of the ramifications of honesty, I cannot comprehend. The opportunity to take a breath and live a single day on this planet is miraculous. To be able to look into the eyes of another person and feel true happiness, the chance to form that bond renders characteristics like race and gender meaningless. How lucky we are to love.

The mother, played absolutely perfectly by Lise Roy, was lied to by her son who spoke of a girlfriend that never existed, shielding her from his truth. Not everyone at the farm was kept in the dark though. An older brother, Francis, knew all too well of his sibling's sexuality and the homophobia inside him raged. He takes all of this anger and awfulness out on Tom, but within the machismo and the hatred demonstrated by Francis it is quite clear that he is a lonely man haunted by his own personal confusion. The private exchanges between Francis and Tom, whether kind or violent, were when Tom at the Farm excelled the most. 

Where the film went ever so slightly off the rails for me was when it seemed to battle some level of genre confusion, as it played masterfully as a disturbing psychological drama yet felt like it was trying to force a thriller vibe into the fold and it simply didn't play right. Rather than flow naturally like a vast majority of Dolan's work does with grace and elegance, a booming musical score would suddenly blast us into submission and it felt more like manipulation than genuine storytelling. 

The thing about Dolan though, even when he missteps it ends up feeling minor rather than egregious. Tom at the Farm isn't perfect cinema but it still manages to punch you in the gut and make you think. It still manages to feel passionate and important. While I watched Roy steal the show playing the devastated mother, I kept thinking about my daughter and how I would never want her to keep her honest self from me. The idea of her not feeling comfortable enough to show me her truth is heartbreaking.

Be who you are. Love who you love, as long as you have the courage to love and be loved. 

Tomorrow will be my 11,539th day since I was born. I don't want to take it for granted and I don't want to lie. I want to live. I want to love. 



  1. Wow. I don't know that I'll actually watch this movie, as it simply sounds overly morose for my liking. However, I do know that your review is extraordinarily thoughtful and well composed. Looking forward to more...

    1. John, you are far too kind. I really appreciate that, and yeah, the film isn't for everyone, but the fact that you still read my words and gave me such positive feedback means a lot.