Flying in the face of fear and prejudice, Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) tells his girlfriend Fred (Suzanne Clément) that he wants to become a woman. In spite of the odds, and in spite of each other, for ten years they confront the contempt and bigotry of their friends, ignore the counsel of their families, and brave the phobias of the society they offend - but will this stand cost Fred and Laurence both themselves and each other?
After fighting against himself for years Laurence, a teacher in a Canadian high school, finally accepts his transexuality and embraces his new identity as a woman; the film explores how this decision impacts on her relationship with her mother and the ten years spent with the girlfriend she acquired whilst still a man.
A beautiful moment early on in the film in which Laurence, appearing at work dressed as a woman for the very first time, is greeted by silence and awestruck stares, only to have them broken by a simple and mundane question about the assignment the class had been set, filled me with hope for Laurence Anyways the third film by young director Xavier Dolan (only 23). This moment was a hard act to follow indeed and unfortunately for Dolan he is unable to even come close during the rest of the movie’s extensive 160 minute runtime.
It would be inaccurate to discuss here what the film lacks, because it is rather its general abundance that stops this being a truly intriguing and moving drama. The main storyline, that of Laurence and girlfriend Fred is filled with several very potent and intense moments in which societal fears battle against personal intimacy; whilst the change in the relationship between Laurence and his mother – who hated her son but seems to love her daughter – are full of potential. All these scenes are sparsely distributed over the movie’s painfully long runtime and scattered between are incidents so over-the-top and pretentious that they are likely to make you squirm in your seat.
Over zealous use of colour contrasts and indulgent 80’s retrospection are alienating and terribly overused in contemporary cinema and utterly ruin what could have been a unique and insightful look into sexuality and relationships.