CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

The lust boys: Matthias and Maxime

Angsty tale of childhood friends' unfulfilled love is brave, funny and endearing

28 August, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas and Xavier Dolan in Matthias and Maxime

MATTHIAS AND MAXIME
Directed by Xavier Dolan
Certificate: 15
☆☆☆

FALLING in love with your best friend and the agony of not revealing the depth of your feelings is a pretty standard plot.

But in the hands of director Xavier Dolan, who also stars, it becomes both a comedy and tragedy – a clever line to walk successfully.

Set in French-speaking Canada, it tells the story of Matthias and Maxime, two childhood friends who have long held both a buddy-buddy friendship but a more deep-rooted and carnal-like attraction.

Max (Dolan) is barman who wants a fresh start, and has decided to head for a two-year trip to Melbourne. Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas) is a successful young lawyer with a beautiful girlfriend, and seems to have it made. The pair have remained key members of a gang of mates who are still thick as thieves into their late 20s.

But there is something else about them: we discover they once shared an Ecstasy-inspired kiss at a party when teenagers, and when they are asked to have a snog for an experimental art film, they both realise that they rather enjoyed it.

That pushes us headfirst into a angsty tale of unfulfilled love as the friends get together with their mates to enjoy a prolonged send-off party for Max – and old feelings resurface.

It works brilliantly for a number of reasons. Both the leads are terrific, and flesh out their roles. But it’s the supporting cast that really shine: a motley collection of drug-addled mothers needing support; a gaggle of other elders who hoot with gossip and roar with laughter; and above all, the friends who surround the couple.

Dolan has a lovely ear for dialogue and the natural interplay between the characters feels like it comes from the Ken Loach school of letting the actors get on with it.

Wordplay is used to both dramatic and comic effect: the language mix of French Canadian and slang American English is used as a tool of mirth.

Because there are parts that are very, very good, the fact it is weakened by too-long montages set to music that makes you feel the film-maker owed a favour to a singer-songwriter friend and had to shoehorn their personal compositions in. You could lose such moments – which simply slow the pace – and still come in at around 90 minutes.

But it is enough of a brave, funny and endearing film for its occasional foibles and quirks to be tolerated.

AWAY
Directed by Gints Zibalodis
Certificate: PG
☆☆☆☆

AWAY is a piece of flowing art, a dream-like journey that shows quite how beautiful modern computer animated film can be.

We are introduced to a little boy lost, hanging from a tree, wearing a parachute in a barren world. We join him on his quest to get home. He finds a motorbike, is haunted by scary-looking ghost-like creatures who turn out to be on his side, and a cute little bird who comes along for the journey.

Whether it works as a parable isn’t important – it works through being simply beautiful.

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