Review: A confusing ‘Tom at the Farm’

Pierre-Yves Cardinal in "Tom at the Farm."

Pierre-Yves Cardinal in “Tom at the Farm.”

(Clara Palardy / Amplify Releasing)

“Tom at the Farm” is strange, idiosyncratic tale that straddles a fine line between homoerotic camp and spider-and-fly thriller. Either way, it’s an ill-conceived journey from French Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan (“Laurence Anyways” and the 2014 Cannes jury prize winner “Mommy”).

The 26-year-old Dolan directed, wrote (with Michel Marc Bouchard, based on Bouchard’s play) and stars in this frustrating vanity piece shot in 2013. For anyone keeping score, he also edited, served as costume designer, was a producer and has the most close-ups.

Tom (Dolan, haircut please) drives up from Montreal to rural Quebec to attend the funeral of his 25-year-old lover, Guillaume, who was killed in an accident. When Tom reaches Guillaume’s family’s farm, he’s thrust into the kind of domestic psychodrama that may have resonated on stage but proves pretentious and hermetical here, after some initial tension.

The conceit: Guillaume’s widowed mother, Agathe (Lise Roy), is unaware that her son was gay. She believes Tom is just Guillaume’s good friend and that Guillaume had a co-worker girlfriend, Sarah, who simply chose to skip the funeral.


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Meanwhile, Guillaume’s hunky older brother, Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), who runs the farm, instantly bullies Tom into submission, demanding that Tom keep Guillaume’s secret so as not to upset the unstable Agathe.

It’s in the depiction of the brutal, deceptive dynamic between Tom and Francis that the film buries itself, provoking and posturing when it should be plumbing serious emotional depths. When Sarah (Evelyne Brochu) shows up, things get even more scrambled.

Compelling visuals, an evocative score by Gabriel Yared and a kicky use of the late-1960s hit “The Windmills of Your Mind” — in French! — are pluses.


“Tom at the Farm”

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. In French with English subtitles.


Playing: Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles; Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena.