Xavier Dolan‘s had a tough few years. The Canadian wunderkind’s last two efforts It’s Only the End of the World and The Death and Life of John F. Donovan have bombed hard, but in Matthias & Maxime he returns to some of his favourite topics – gay love and mother-son conflicts – with a sweet and funny buddy film that hides some darker corners.
His script is packed with natural banter and time-worn references between the core group of five male friends, who have a great onscreen chemistry. You pick up the old nicknames, the grudges, and the alliances within the group so quickly that it feels you’ve been part of their gang for years.
A drunken bet soon drives a wedge between Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas) and Maxime (Dolan, starring in one of his own films for the first time in six years), stirring up suppressed feelings between the pair.
It’s refreshing to see Dolan avoid the classic obstacles for an onscreen queer relationship. The biggest problem raised by the pair’s burgeoning romance is how it will affect their friendship and Max’s plans to emigrate to Australia.
Matthias struggles the most with his new feelings, with a girlfriend providing one more thing for him to feel guilty about. His internal torment is the weakest part of the film, feeling overplayed and sullen. His closed reactions also make it unclear whether he’s ashamed of being gay or just too awkward and emotionally closed to express how he feels.
Dolan’s script cleverly portrays this intersection between liberal masculinity and queer identity, having plenty of fun along the way teasing his ensemble’s sexual insecurities.
Matthias & Maxime is an entertaining and intelligent romantic comedy shot with Dolan’s usual verve. It’s not on a par with his best, earlier films, but it demonstrates enough development in his style to suggest greater things to come.
CAST: Xavier Dolan, Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas, Anne Dorval, Pier-Luc Funk, Catherine Brunet
DIRECTOR: Xavier Dolan
WRITER: Xavier Dolan
SYNOPSIS: A drama focusing on a group of friends in their late 20s as unexplored feelings change their relationships forever.