The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Remedy for rural fantasies

with 9 comments

tom at the farm

Are you an urban dweller who secretly nourishes a dream about living in the countryside? Do you find the idea of life at a farm, close to crops and animals seem attractive to you, more “real” than the artificial life you lead in the city?

I that case I’ve got a cure for you. Watch Xavier Dolan’s new psychological thriller Tom at the Farm and I think you’ll drop whatever romantic idea you have about how cosy and friendly a rural life will be.

The film begins when Tom (played by the director, who also has produced, written and edited the film, multi-talented as he is) travels to a rural area in Canada to attend the funeral of his boyfriend, Guillame. It turns out that Guillame hasn’t told his family about his homosexuality or about the existence of Tom. It’s only Frances, the brother, who understands what’s going on. And it’s an understatement to say that he’s unhappy about it.

sff_korallThe relationship between Tom and Frances is bad from the start and gets weirder and weirder over the course of the movie. There’s mourning, there’s guilt, there’s a bit of erotic tension and attraction, but most of all there’s a ton of violence and abuse combined with a case of Stockholm Syndrome. And as you watch Tom sinking deeper into his misery, you get more and more frustrated until you reach the boiling point and just want to stand up I the theatre to him: “FFS, GET OUT OF THAT PLACE! “

A darker film
This is quite far away from Xavier Dolan’s last movie, Laurence Anyways. That film too had a serious theme, about a man struggling with his gender identity. But it also contained some beautiful, imaginative shots, such as the butterfly flying out of the mouth of a man or clothes falling from the sky like snow. It gave it a lighter, more playful tone.

There are no such fantasy scenes in Tom at the Farm. We keep getting back to the brown soil, the cows that need to be milked, the corn that cuts you if you try to run through it, the loneliness at the table in the kitchen. Darkness, rain, guilt, violence and aggression – openly displayed or luring under the surface. No dreams. No love. And not a lot of hope.

I liked this film quite a bit.  It left me exhausted (watching a lot of aggressive behaviour in a film has that effect on me), but also with a sense of gratitude of living where I do: in a city.

Car pollution or not – the air here is a great deal easier to breathe than it is elsewhere.

Tom at the Farm (Tom à la ferme, Xavier Dolan, CA 2013) My rating: 4/5


Some fellow Swedish movie bloggers also watched Tom at the farm. Here’s what they made of it:

Except Fear


Fiffis filmtajm

Rörliga bilder och tryckta ord

Written by Jessica

November 14, 2013 at 6:00 am

Posted in Tom at the Farm

9 Responses

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  1. Still, there was some beauty here as well. I particularly liked the composition when Tom is heading back to the farm after his funeral getaway, lines upon lines upon lines… Unfortunately it didn’t rescue the film for me, I need more closure than this.


    November 14, 2013 at 10:17 am

    • Oh there was. Those lines stuck with me to. Beautiful to watch, though less merry than the images from Laurence Anyways. Now Dolan isn’t the cinematographer (about the only role he doesn’t have in the making of this film), but I suspect he has a strong influence on how it looks. There is a kinship between the films, though this is less of the visual feast that LA was.


      November 14, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    • I was at one of the later screening and I think some of the audiences felt pretty much the same towards the abrupt ending. Though I quite admired the ambiguity of the ending, as well as the characters (some really good performances I thought, as he usually gets from his actors). There were more than enough there in the story to grab my attention throughout, and of course, his visual sensibility, despite being more restrained than usual, heightens the whole film for me. This is probably the most enjoyable, if not my favourite, film of this year’s SIFF.


      November 24, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      • I’m afraid I only spent one day at the festival, not living in Stockholm myself, but out of the three I watched it was definitely my favourite.


        November 24, 2013 at 11:21 pm

  2. I find this post funny because my Mom was originally from Chicago, the big city, and then moved to Iowa, where I grew up, which is much more rural and filled with cornfields. And my Mom would always tell people that she felt safer in a dark alley in Chicago than in a dark cornfield in Iowa.


    November 16, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    • One of the places where I’ve felt most safe was actually visiting NYC. Admittedly we were at central Manhattan and there were police everywhere – even in the middle of the night. The only scary thing we ever saw were the rats in the underground, but we got used to it.


      November 17, 2013 at 6:37 pm

  3. Great review. This sounds very intirguing!


    November 18, 2013 at 12:01 am

  4. Your review makes me keen to watch his other films because I found Tom at the Farm quite beautiful from time to time. So if for example LA is more visually striking I’m in for a treat. 🙂

    As Sofia wrote in her review, I also found the movie almost funny, funny in an absurd way, sometimes.


    November 24, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    • I think you definitely should watch it. The visuals are even more striking there I’d say. And you’re right, there is some dark humour in this one.


      November 24, 2013 at 11:02 pm

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