Tom à la ferme (Tom at the Farm)

tom at the farmSpoiler alert: Xavier Dolan’s fourth film, Tom à la ferme  (Tom at the Farm) brought up a slew of emotions within me. But first let’s talk distribution. Dolan’s Tom is only available for sale through Amazon. I assume the film had distribution in Canada on Blu-ray, not in the U.S. and since Amazon has a Canadian presence, they can sell copies on their U.S. site. So no buying this film from smaller gay retailers or getting it any time soon on Netflix. That out of the way, Tom at the Farm is an uber-creepy, psychological horror film that simultaneously made my skin crawl (in a good way) and confounded me. I love that Dolan decided to go in a completely different direction with this project. He continues to be a force to be reckoned with and the best director of his generation. The good news is Dolan’s signature style – beautiful camera shots, intimate characters studies are all there. It’s gorgeously shot in rural Quebec. Tom lands at his deceased boyfriend’s family farm for the funeral. Unbeknownst to him, Guillaume never told his family he was gay, except of course the sinister older brother Francis. Tom at the Farm is classic “innocent drops into a family of insane people” plot. The first half of the film certainly nailed that genre. I kept thinking I hated the film due to my queasiness. Of course I wasn’t uncomfortable because the film was bad. I was uncomfortable because the story was scaring the shit out of me. Nearly every character other than the brother presents initially as normal. Then the cracks begin to appear. Unfortunately, about halfway through the film holes also appear in the plot. Characters do unbelievable things. I realize that can be part of the genre, but Dolan didn’t create a camp horror film. This was played as authentic and it was until it wasn’t and then it began falling apart. I never understood why Tom didn’t leave on his own earlier. Of course that can be said about nearly every screamfest film. I didn’t understand why he put up with the brother’s abuse. Was it internalized homophobia? Did it remind him of his dead boyfriend in a sick sort of way? Certainly Tom and Francis were falling in love during the film. I wanted more about the twisted love, I wanted to know more about Francis and Guillaume’s relationship. I didn’t understand why Guillaume’s death was never explained. Was it suicide? And while I understand the creation of the Sarah character for the mother, I was baffled as to why she literally showed up – other than to rescue Tom, and then proceeds to get threatened by Francis, tell Tom she and everyone else slept with Guillaume – basically saying Tom was an idiot doormat, and then does she fuck Francis in the truck after threatening to expose their charade if he didn’t take her to the bus stop? It all became a bundle of confusion to me. I applaud Xavier Dolan for tackling this genre and wrapping it in homophobia and self-loathing, real issues scarier than a horror film. I wonder if he either bit off more than he could chew or if he just didn’t have enough time or money to see this project through to a cleaner vision? All the pieces were there to make this a truly outstanding psychological horror film. In the end, it just didn’t work for me. I’m giving Tom at the Farm a 3 out of 5 because it’s Xavier Dolan and he doesn’t make a bad film. Tom at the Farm just wasn’t great.

Xavier’s Mommy gets released on April 28, 2015. I already have the DVD pre-booked.

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