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LIFF 2019: Matthias & Maxime

still from Matthias & Maxime

When thirty something childhood friends Matthias and Maxime have to share a kiss for a student film, it changes everything. Xavier Dolan brings a touching and relatable story to the screen with extremely realistic and well-directed scenes.

Xavier Dolan has established himself as a key director of the 21st century, with nearly all of his films having been screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Now he is back with Matthias & Maxime, a much less extravagant film than his previous ones. No overuse of slow motion, no aesthetic unrealistic images, and no outlandish characters… This film is beautiful in its simplicity.

The story follows a group of friends: Maxime (Xavier Dolan), who cares for his troubled mother, feels the need to escape and decides to leave for Australia. Matthieu (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas), his best friend since childhood, is a clean-cut man, trying to climb up the ladder at his law firm, and their other friends Rivette (Pier-Luc Funk), Brass and Frank (Samuel Gauthier) love partying and having fun with them at any opportunity. All the characters, even the less important ones, are fully fleshed out and alive. The acting is excellent, every actor expresses their character’s feelings with subtlety and naturalism.

The intimate scenes between this group of guys are extremely realistic. This film displays what I believe is Dolan’s best skill: the ability to imitate reality. Watching the film, I felt like I was in a familiar situation and knew some of the characters. 

Matthias & Maxime might sound like a simple coming out tale but it is very skilfully written. This film is filled with overlapping dialogue, and there is barely a moment when nobody is talking. The characters talk constantly, but it’s what they don’t talk about that is important. No one asks why Maxime is going to Australia, Maxime never explains his complicated situation with his abusive mum, Matthias never expresses how profoundly troubled he was by the kiss. In my favourite scene, where Matthias’ repressed feelings burst to the surface, he begins a fight because someone supposedly cheated at a game, but in reality is starting the fight because he does not want Maxime to leave. Silence only occurs twice in the film, and in both those moments, Matthias and Maxime finally reveal their feelings.

Matthias & Maxime is a beautiful film about friendship, masculinity, and growing up that will move many people.