Opening the movie with the song “Home is Where it hurts”, Dolan gives us a glimpse of the family drama coming up on screen, in one of the most beautiful opening sequences in his filmography. Louis (Gaspar Ulliel), visits his family after 12 years of absence in order to announce to them that he is dying. Louis’ mother (Nathalie Baye) and his sister, Suzanne (Lea Seydoux) are excited and emotional about his return and they make multiple preparations for his arrival. However, Louis’ brother, Antoine (Vincent Cassel) and his wife Catherine (Marion Cotillard) seem quite suspicious about Louis’ return and they expose a somehow hostile attitude towards him.
The constant shift from happiness and excitement to pain and anger is exposed mainly through the intense body language shared by the characters. Creating the aura through facial expressions, gestures, and gazes, Dolan sets the right intense atmosphere to foreshadow the next emotional outburst. The family members share the awkward silence, the full of meaning gazes into each other’s eyes and some hesitant hugs, while we – the audience – experience the tension through the multiple sequences of close-ups on faces. We are sitting uncomfortable in our seats, waiting for the next problem to arise, for the next awkward moment of silence, which we share, full of curiosity, with the characters.
Xavier Dolan transfers the feeling of pain shared among these people by effectively visualizing the rarely uttered emotions in the characters’ faces, gestures and in the claustrophobic use of space. The director intensified the emotionally tense atmosphere by the use of extremely high temperature and -later on- the heavy rain when the family experiences the most significant outburst of emotions. Dolan creates a voyeuristic experience, entering the most private moments of a family in order to experience their dysfunction. By providing no reasons for Louis’ long absence and a limited access to his emotions, Dolan establishes Louis as a force that triggers a family chaos.
Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5fzQI6UMvc