LFF REVIEW: “A charming and witty display of affection from Dolan” – Matthias & Maxime (2019)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“Dolan’s vision of love and loss comes to life in the most earnestly heartfelt of ways.”

Returning with another majestic demonstration of youthfulness, romantic pining and a journey of self-awakening, Matthias & Maxime is a charming and witty display of affection from Xavier Dolan.

Childhood friends Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas) and Maxime (Xavier Dolan) are life-long companions and truly inseparable. When they are asked to kiss for an expressionist/impressionist/abstract short film, nothing is quite the same. Matthias can’t seem to shake the kiss from his mind, seemingly puzzled by his own reaction and emotions towards the ‘insignificant’ kiss. It is then revealed that in twelve days Maxime will be leaving to Australia for two years, an additional strain on their bond which further complicates their relationship.

Their childhood connection is quickly established. The pair are so relaxed in each other’s presence, sharing a demeanour of complete comfort surrounded by their rowdy friends. Stylistically framed, at one point the camera is positioned outside the house, gazing through the window into the warmly lit kitchen, so only a sliver of inside can be seen. Watching Matthias and Maxime wash dishes side by side Dolan’s directorial voyeurism feels freshly intriguing. The two men close in this tight frame is perfectly indicative of this close partnership Dolan is meaning to convey. A friendship that is so much more. Life-long companions, they are magnets repeatedly being drawn back together; no matter how hard they try to fight it, it is almost impossible to resist.

This dynamic composition continues with Dolan’s immersion in character discussion. Submerged in face-level shots, embodying another person amongst the chatter, quick movement from face to face keeps up with who’s talking as conversation jumps about. Dolan’s effortless dialogue is able to move from quick-witted jokes to mutterings as secrets are voiced. Grounded in sincere emotional reach, Matthias & Maxime is exceptional for its capturing of these small but incredibly meaningful moments of connection between people.

Maxime standing in the middle of the street with raindrops falling around him

Matthias and Maxime’s relationship continues to be Dolan’s focus in this examination of the pair’s connection. Maxime is very close to Matthias’ family. Slotting himself into their dynamic with no force, he looks as though he belongs at their dining table. Maxime’s own mother is house bound; a can of coke in one hand and cigarette in the other, she is a presence Maxime does not want to be in the company of. Shovelling spaghetti into his mouth so he can leave quicker, Maxime hurries through this part of his life only to relax in the garden of Matthias’ home, surrounded by friends, happy to just sit and let the time pass by. In another consistent factor of Dolan’s work, friends become family. Chosen family becomes sincerely more poignant and deeply moving in this blurring of friends and love. 

“It’s going to be weird not having you around”. A statement loaded with longing and contempt from Matthias, falls flat for Maxime. The distance between them grows and eye contact now feels awkward. The impending farewell is dealt with by partying, getting high and drinking, yet a sourness lingers. Childhood memories now feel painfully nostalgic, reminiscing only leads to tear-jerking emotions being uncovered and raised to the surface.

A soundtrack comprising of Britney’s ‘Work B**ch’, contrasted by the ethereal lyrics of Phosphorescent’s ‘Song For Zula’, is smartly placed. Seamless editing is smartly timed as to hang on a final note without overstaying its welcome. Sculpting the relationship of these two men, including every little detail, Dolan moulds the time between them as if it is clay. Twelve days pass by all too quickly and yet both characters drag their feet instead of saying goodbye. 

The open road in front of Matthias and Maxime is long, and Dolan loves a long take of an open road. Reminiscent of that incredible scene in Mommy (2014), in Matthias & Maxime sweeping shots show road markings whizz by in a blur. The expansive road offers opportunity: chances Maxime craves and Matthias dreads. The gradual self-realisation is natural for both as their friendship leaning into something more. Remaining unapologetically unrushed, they dance around each-other in their own time with a touch of Dolan’s feisty energy sprinkled throughout.

Witty and handsomely charming, Matthias & Maxime is an offering from Dolan that is both majestically mature and empathetically emotional. Effortlessly exhibiting the complicated and messy existence of being young and exploring sexuality: Dolan’s vision of love and loss comes to life in the most earnestly heartfelt of ways.

Dir: Xavier Dolan.

Prod: Xavier Dolan and Nancy Grant.

Cast: Xavier Dolan, Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas, Pier-Luc Funk, Antoine Pilon, Samuel Gauthier, Adib Alkhalidey.