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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reeling Review #7: See Tom at the Farm at Chicago's LGBT Film Festival

Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan's fourth feature film, Tom at the Farm (Tom à la ferme), is one of those psychological thrillers that makes an audience scream, "Don't go in the house!" or "Don't go in the basement!" or - in this case - "Don't go back to the farm, Tom!" But, alas, he does go back in order to continue the movie. People making dumb choices is a familiar and frustrating aspect of most thrillers, but without such unwise decisions, there would be no film to enjoy. Watching folks get themselves in - and hopefully out of - scary situations is all part of the fun.

Another common aspect of many thrillers is the ambiguous final scene that leaves you with more questions than answers. I felt this way after watching the last scene of Tom at the Farm, but it's probably doubtful that a second viewing would have everything suddenly make sense. Psychological thrillers play mind games with their characters as well as with those who sit on the edge of their seat fearfully wondering what will happen next. Again, this is what makes such films entertaining. And although I often found myself quite perplexed by Mr. Dolan's latest movie, I still had a good time during its wild ride.

Dolan and Michel Marc Bouchard's intriguing screenplay (based on Bouchard's play) has plenty of twists and turns as it tells the story of Tom (played by Dolan), a young man who travels to the country for the funeral of his boyfriend Guillaume. He stays on a farm belonging to Guillaume's grieving mother, who lives there with her eldest son, Francis. Now 30-year-old Francis is one crazy mama's boy who seems to get a kick out of tormenting poor Tom - and that's all I'm going to say about the plot, which at times does require one to suspend their disbelief. But Dolan's excellent direction - combined with the increasing tension of the script - makes it easy to accept such a condition.

Both Dolan and Lise Roye (as the mother) are wonderful in their roles, but it's Pierre-Yves Cardinal who dominates the film from beginning to end with his charismatically creepy performance as Francis. However, unlike Tom, I would never return to a place where someone like Francis lives - no matter how much he might remind me of my dead boyfriend. And Tom at the Farm might make you think twice about leaving the big city for the land of cornfields and cows.

Show time: 7 pm, Friday, September 19, at the Landmark's Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark)
Running time: 102 minutes

For a complete schedule of films at Reeling32: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival (which runs September 18 - 25), go to You can purchase tickets online (click here) or in person at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark) Monday - Friday 10:30 am - 6 pm. You can also get the latest festival news by following Reeling on Twitter and Facebook. And click here to read all my Reeling reviews.

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