Juste La Fin Du Monde (It’s Only the End of the World) review

Michelle Yeung
October 22, 2016
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

If Xavier Dolan’s past films immersed you in an atmosphere of tense cacophony, Its Only The End of The World drowns you in it. Nabbing the Grand Prix at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Dolan’s newest film was featured in film festivals across the globe. In fact, it most recently graced the silver screen at the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s annual Film Fest, bringing the French-Canadian director’s “most proudest work” back a little closer to home. Its Only the End of the World is oppressive and relishes in the madness of it’s characters. It induces a sense of claustrophobia that makes the viewer feel as though the entire world is closing in on them, only to realize that every argument and disaster comes to an eventual, cathartic end.

The film centres around Louis (Gaspard Ulliel), a terminally-ill playwright who returns home after his 12 year absence to deliver a difficult message to his family: his impending death. His absence – reasons unknown to the audience – has resulted in boundless pain to an already dysfunctional family, a pain that is only exacerbated by his return to loved ones so conflicted about their feelings for him. There is both pride — his mother’s (Nathalie Baye) clippings of his achievements as a playwright in the big city — and intense spasmodic resentment that arises when his siblings, Suzanne (Léa Seydoux) and Antoine (Vincent Cassel), are reminded of what it meant to have no contact with one of their own for so long, to be abandoned. This uncomfortable family reunion is a pressure cooker of anxiety, and marks the first time Louis meets Antoine’s wife, Catherine (Marion Cotillard). It is ironic, because each character’s pain masks them to Louis’ obvious state of turmoil. They consider his palpable anxiety to spawn from a desire to be gone from them, missing that he is uncomfortable because he cannot get a word in to tell them he is dying amidst all the screaming and dysfunction.

With its plot surrounding a very common theme – the dramatic reunion of a deeply broken family – the film could’ve very easily fallen flat. However, Dolan assembled an A-list French cast that carried the film through with immersive intensity. Perhaps, then, the most successful part of this film is its casting. In particular, Cotillard is captivating as Antoine’s submissive wife, Catherine. She seems to understand what Louis had travelled all this way to say without the exchange of a single word, and is sensitive to the brash dynamics of the family. It doesn’t take long for the audience to see the family through her doe eyes, and we can’t help but empathize for this soft soul thrust into a cataclysmic situation. Seydoux stuns as the epitome of an ambition-less stoner as Suzanne, Louis’ youngest sister. She both respects and resents Louis, admiring him for his achievements but loathing him for not taking her along with him. Capping off the impressive roster of performances is Baye, who plays Louis flamboyant, widowed mother with a dramatic tour-de-force and a blue eyeshadow that matches the shade of her cobalt necklace and ostentatious personality.

Although Its Only the End of the World is not Dolan’s best work (it can sometimes feel overly theatrical and drag on), it still conveys the captivating, spine-tingling discomfort that is so unique to his other films. The insufferable loneliness that each character experiences is so palpable that it feels like a sustained assault on the viewer. The palette is dim and oppressive throughout the film, until the final argument climaxes to a bright, orange cathartic sunset. Louis looks ill for the entire 1 hour and 37 minutes, but a different kind of malaise permeates throughout. However, the darkness of the plot is balanced with Louis’ flashbacks of less distressing times, where the sudden influx of cooler tones and happier images feel like an injection of euphoria into a family reunion that is filled with equal measures love and hate; pain and joy; piercing screams of frustration and hushed words of eternal, unconditional adoration.


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