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Laurence Anyways

Laurence Anyways

Released 7 December 2012
Director Xavier Dolan

Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clément, Nathalie Baye, Monia Chokri, Susan Almgren, Yves Jacques
Writer(s) Xavier Dolan

Charles Gillibert, Nathanael Karmitz, Lyse Lafontaine
Origin Canada, France
Running Time 168 minutes
Genre Drama, romance

Feelings engendered.

At 160 minutes in length, you'd be more than forgiven for thinking twice before seeing a French-language Canadian film about a man who longs to be a woman. “Forgiven? That Xavier Nolan guy should be apologising to me for being so downright presumptuous thinking we'd sit through such nonsense for so long,” you might also add. Well, let me tell you that by the end you'll be left wanting more, more and more. Yes, I was surprised too – Laurence Anyways is amazing.

It's the late 1980s as Laurence and Frederique are deeply in love, exuberant in each other's eccentric company. But, after more than thirty years feeling like a woman trapped inside a man's body, Laurence confesses that he wants to begin the process that will change his gender. Buoyed by their intense love for one another as kindred spirits, the duo attempt to work through the unusual transition during a time when it is becoming slightly more socially acceptable to be “diff'rent”. But while all appears smooth sailing at first, gradually the cracks begin to appear – heightened by Fred's impulsive decision to have an abortion when she learns of an unexpected pregnancy. After their respective struggles with acceptance, they break up, years pass and they lead separate lives before an inevitable reconciliation. Yet, despite their unbearable love for one another, their overriding problems remain and the faux-pas still exists.

Without its leads, this film probably wouldn't have worked but Melvil Poupaud's Laurence and Suzanne Clément's 'Fred' deliver captivating, engaging and heartbreaking performances. Poupaud is brilliant, but Clément excels as the woman caught up in another's imprisoned soul – the desperation to be faithful to the man she loves clear to see, the impossibility to live with the strain on their relationship orchestrated with equal proportion.

What makes the time endurable is not actually the subject matter which, while deep, is in keeping with the increasing amount of these kind of artistic films in recent times, but the superb direction and cinematography that has the entire motion-picture play out like the most dramatic of 1980s pop videos. Think of the likes of Ultravox's 'Vienna' done on an even more grandiose scale. This, of course, is supported by a wonderful soundtrack that will go down as one of the best of 2012.

With all that said, it's still not perfect. Two subplots involving Laurence are flawed – one with his mother that had an underlying tone of importance which was never truly resolved and another with a group of performing transsexuals and queens, or something, that is neither here nor there. These two components will lead some to look at their watch and perhaps rightfully so.

However, leave those aside as momentary impasses because the overall premise of Laurence Anyways, the poetically flawed love story, and the way it is shared with the viewer, is mesmerising.

- David Caulfield