Dolan Directs: Laurence Anyways (2012)

“I’m stealing someone’s life.”

“Whose life?”

“The life of the woman I was born to be.”

Laurence Anyways charts a ten-year period in the life of Laurence, a high school teacher, as he finally reaches a point where he admits to himself and the love of his life that he is actually a woman and wants to transition.

And although the title indicates that it’s all about Laurence (Melvil Poupaud), it’s equally, and perhaps even more, about Fred (Suzanne Clément), his highly strung girlfriend who undergoes her own identity crisis as she struggles to understand and support Laurence through his transition. Fred is presumably short for Frédérique, and Laurence is a name which can be for both males and females in French, so the ambiguity is present even in the title.

In fact, once Laurence has made the decision to live as a woman, we only see glimpses of his journey. He does experience difficulties, but director Xavier Dolan instead looks at how Fred’s life is turned upside down too, and how she loses herself as Laurence grows into himself/herself. Can their love for each other survive this change?

This is the first Dolan-directed film in which he doesn’t act; you know it’s ‘un film de Dolan’, but you do miss his on-screen presence.

At 2 hours and 48 minutes, this is over an hour longer than either of Dolan’s previous two features – and it does feel as though it could have been edited down a little. Yet the story and the characters are so absorbing and well-played that it is easy to stick with them.

You can always spend the time looking out for the Dolan connections or signature pieces. Excellent music choices (Fade to Grey a particular highlight for me), slow motion walking, and a host of familiar faces from previous Dolan films – Anne Dorval, Monia Chokri, Magalie Lépine Blondeau and Anne-Élisabeth Bossé from Les amours imaginaires for example. Papa Dolan (Manuel Tadros) also reprises his role from J’ai tué ma mère as ‘landlord showing prospective tenants around an apartment’, with almost identical lines.

And my favourite trademark – tea being poured into china cups!

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