Laurence, Anyways (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner30/11/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 159 mins

23 year old director Xavier Dolan's third feature is stylishly shot, superbly acted and brilliantly soundtracked, but it's also a whole hour longer than it needs to be and it eventually wears out its welcome.

What's it all about?
Directed by Xavier Dolan (already on his third critically acclaimed feature at the age of 23, in case you were wondering if you were wasting your life), Laurence, Anyways is a French-Canadian production set between 1989 and 1999. Melvil Poupaud stars as university professor Laurence Laurence Alia (‘Laurence, anyways’), who stuns his long-term girlfriend Fred (Suzanne Clement) – short for Frederique, but see what they did there? - when he announces that he's transsexual and wants to live as a woman.

Needless to say, neither Fred nor Laurence's mother (Nathalie Baye) react too kindly to the news, but Fred decides to stick with him and support him, whatever the difficulties. Eventually, however, the pressure becomes too much and the couple split, but after a few years, they find themselves drawn towards each other again.

The Good
Melvil Poupaud is superb as Laurence, managing to pull off his living-as-a-woman phase in convincing fashion, though he receives so much abuse and discrimination that you start to wonder if maybe he has a bit of a masochistic streak as well. Suzanne Clement is equally good as Fred and her struggle over whether or not to stay with the man she loves is given equal weight in the film. There's also strong support from Nathalie Baye as Laurence's (unnamed) mother, whose unexpected reaction (telling Laurence that he never felt like her son) seems initially cruel but is actually oddly supportive.

As with his previous films I Killed My Mother and Heartbeats, Dolan's direction is extremely stylish throughout, drenching each scene in bright colours, impeccable hairdos and making brilliant use of a superbly eclectic soundtrack that throws up everything from Beethoven to techno to 80s New Wave; there are also strong echoes of the early work of Pedro Almodovar, both thematically and stylistically.

The Bad
The main problem is the crippling running time, which, at over two and a half hours, is far too long to sustain what is essentially a fairly simple story. Consequently, the film eventually wears out its welcome and even the powerful emotion of the first half of the film begins to feel diluted by the end and late-arriving revelations lack the dramatic impact they might have had.

Worth seeing?
Laurence, Anyways is stylishly directed, superbly soundtracked and brilliantly acted by both Poupaud and Clement, but its punishing running time eventually begins to feel like overindulgence and ultimately diminishes the emotional impact of the film.

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Content updated: 24/10/2017 10:33

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