Tom At The Farm (Tom A La Ferme) (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner27/02/2014

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 102 mins

The latest film from Canadian writer-director-star Xavier Dolan is an atmospheric and appealingly Hitchcockian thriller that plays some intriguingly dark games and exerts an increasingly tight grip, thanks to strong performances, a clever script and Dolan's assured direction.

What's it all about?
Directed by Xavier Dolan and based on the play by Michel Marc Bouchard, Tom At The Farm stars Dolan as Tom, a gay Montreal hipster who travels to rural Quebec for the funeral of his lover Guillaume. However, when he arrives, he quickly discovers that his mother, Agathe (Lise Roy) was completely unaware of her son's sexuality (she complains that his 'Quebec girlfriend' can't be bothered to come to the funeral) and that Guillaume's hostile older brother Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) will violently assault him if the truth about Guillaume gets out.

However, instead of fleeing at the earliest opportunity, Tom decides to stay at the farm, accepting Francis' bullying and forging an increasingly bizarre relationship with his tormentor that ranges from regular beatings to impromptu tango sessions in the barn. And things get even more complicated with the arrival of Sara (Evelyne Brochu), a friend of Tom's and Guillaume's regular fake girlfriend.

The Good
Dolan is excellent as hard-to-read Tom, an intriguing character who reveals more about himself with every unpredictable decision he makes; the moment when you suddenly realise just why Tom might be keen to stick around despite the possible risk to his life is a jaw-dropping twist that makes you reassess his entire character. Cardinal is equally good as Francis, bringing unexpected layers to what could have been a fairly traditional antagonist; there's also strong support from both Roy (who played the role on stage) and Brochu.

As director, Dolan's control of the material is extremely impressive, generating a powerfully suspenseful atmosphere that's thick with both eroticism and the possibility of violence (the film has been dubbed "queer noir" elsewhere and that description fits perfectly). There are also explicit nods towards Hitchcock, both in cinematographer André Turpin's artfully framed shots of wheatfields (shades of North By Northwest) and in Gabriel Yared's fabulous score, which draws heavily on the work of Hitchcock's composer, Bernard Herrmann, to stirring effect.

The Great
In addition to Yared's score and in-keeping with Dolan's previous work, there's also a terrific soundtrack of carefully selected pop tunes, such as a French language version of Michel Legrand's The Windmills of Your Mind, brilliantly used in the opening sequence.

Worth seeing?
Tom at the Farm is an engaging and enjoyable psychological thriller with intriguingly unpredictable edges, thanks to a sharply written script and superb performances from Dolan and Cardinal. Recommended.

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Content updated: 24/10/2017 06:40

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