It’s Only the End of the World (Juste la fin du monde)
Dir: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel
Written & Edited by: Xavier Dolan
Cinematography by: André Turpin
“Encourage them, Louis.”
Xavier Dolan is once again able to capture the emotion behind the dysfunctional nature of families.
I watched this for the second time on my flight back to school, and I realized I liked it even more than I did upon the first viewing. There were so many little, intricite bits that I never caught on to and noticed when I first watched this. My first viewing was at TIFF, not the festival unfortunately, I couldn’t score a ticket, but about a week after the festival and TIFF was showing it, I went to the first screening possible, and I’m so glad I did see it at TIFF because I was lucky enough to see it in 35mm, creating such a beautiful appearance and working so well with the cinematography. Most people who know me know that I’m a very big fan of Dolan’s work, and he is someone that I look up to and respect so much, his films quite often leave me speechless, which is probably why I needed a second watch to convince myself to gather my words enough to get a review up for this 3 months after my first viewing.
At first glance at the cast list, it is already clear that this cast is chock full of talent. With Marion Cotillard becoming a huge star outside of french films, Vincent Cassel with a huge train of amazing performances behind him for two decades now, the second collaboration between Nathalie Baye and Xavier Dolan after her amazing performance in Laurence Anyways. As well, Lea Seydoux is, of course, making a name for herself in some huge hollywood films such as Spectre in 2015. I did not have any knowledge of Gaspard Ulliel previous performances, so I didn’t know what to expect from him, but he did not fail to impress me. He is surrounded by his family, who are constantly yelling and bickering with eachother, and he remains quiet and is able to portray his emotions so well with just small glances and slight changes in expression. The contrast created between his character, Louis, and his expressive brother Antoine, played by Vincent Cassel, was such a strong way of showing Louis’ tension and anxiety. There was also Marion Cotillard’s Catherine, who created almost a bridge between Antoine and Louis, who had a personality somewhere between the two. This created such a great flow of dialogue and personality through the scenes that the film was able to move easily through each new shot. Overall, the acting was probably the strongest aspect of this film, each character had their own personality and all the actors portrayed them beautifully. I never expected less from a Xavier Dolan film, the acting in his films are always incredible, he always seems to pick the perfect person for each role, himself included in his many performances in his films.
Reading through reviews on Letterboxd and some other review sites, I do realize that this film had pretty mixed reviews, with some loving it, and some not. I do believe this is one of those films that if you can connect to the story or the characters, you will very much enjoy it. I know that I really connected with the family dynamic, and the writing felt so natural, that it felt so real, just like a similar family encounter im sure many people have experienced. Although this film was adapted from a play, Xavier Dolan always writes from personal experiences, so I can always trust it to have such a deep rooted familiarity.
Along with the acting, the cinematography was sometihng that I was thinking about days after I watched. There were many scenes where I wished I could get them to pause the film in the theater just so I could spend a few more minutes staring at a particular shot. In the last scene, the most emotional of the whole film, the warm toned light streaming in through the window from the sunset outside, as Louis stood at the door, Antoine pushing him to leave, and Catherine in tears at the idea of losing her brother again, creates such a beautiful shot. The sunlight is incredible, and it’s something that I will most likely never forget. The intensity of the scene contrasted with the warmth of the light and the emotions from each character is a feeling that not every director could create.
The editing in this film is not anything that stood out to me, except in the flashback scene in which Louis is remembering a moment in his past with what is assumed an old boyfriend, Pierre (played by Antoine Desrochers), in which the editing sets the tone of this scene, as Louis is thinking back to a better, simpler, more care free time in his life. Although there is nothing spectacular or new about the editing techniques in this film, it uses its simplistic style to its advantage, and doesn’t distract the viewer from the story.
I do realize the bits of this film that are no as great. For me, there were some scenes that were a little long, and some that I wished there was a bit more of. I wish there could have been some more depth into the relationship between Louis and his sister Catherine, I feel like it was a really interesting story but it really only scratched the surface in one scene taking place between the two of them. I also feel like the scene with Antoine and Louis in the car was a little longer than necessary, although I do also see that this did aid in building the tension that accompanied this scene between the two.
Overall, this is a film I would recommend to people, but only if I feel they would enjoy this certain kind of slower paced film. Its beautifully crafted, written and acted, and Xavier Dolan continues to make incredible films. I can’t wait to see what else he has in store, especially with the release of his first english film ‘The Death and Life of John F. Donovan’