'Tom at the Farm' (2013) Movie Review - Toronto Film Festival

Tom at the Farm movie review
Xavier Dolan in Tom at the Farm

Xavier Dolan has quickly become one of my favorite modern directors. His appeal, for me, goes beyond his stories (though they're great in their own right). It's his tonal approach to filmmaking, his understanding of cinema and ability to embrace the past and make it his own that's so intoxicating. So often a director influenced by the past gets caught up in mimicry and the final product feels somewhat alien. Dolan has no such issue.

Tom at the Farm
Grade: C+

Tom at the Farm"Tom at the Farm" is a Amplify release, directed by Xavier Dolan. This film has not yet been rated by the MPAA. The running time is .

The cast includes Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy and Caleb Landry Jones.

Up until now all of his films have felt like they came from somewhere extremely personal and now, here comes Tom at the Farm, a psychological thriller that's been hard to describe to anyone that's asked. It's a departure from Dolan's first three films -- I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats and Laurence Anyways -- for a wide range of reasons. While he wrote it, just as he did the other three, it's an adaptation, the city is abandoned for the country, his New Wave influences can only be felt around the edges and, most obvious, it's in no way a relationship or family drama, which is all he's really made up until now. This is a film of a different sort.

I've tried to come up with something to compare it to, but I'm at a loss. Cinematically it feels unique in its own right and my first instinct is to call it some sort of B-movie thriller, though that too doesn't feel right, just as a tonal comparison to something like Repulsion or Diabolique is similarly wrong. Tom at the Farm has a madness all its own.

Based on Michel Marc Bouchard's play of the same name, Dolan plays the title character, a young ad agency employee who takes a trip out to the country to attend a funeral only to learn the mother (Lise Roy) of the deceased doesn't know who he is or his relationship to her dead son, Guillame. However, her other son, Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), seems fully aware of who he is and sets about tormenting Tom, physically and mentally.

Tom's first instinct is to leave, and he almost gets away after the funeral, but the decision to return for his luggage proves his downfall. He must play along with Francis' game, including made up stories of Guillaume's fake girlfriend, all for the sake of his mother, while learning of Francis' dark secret and why he's shunned all around town.

Tom at the Farm has an unexpected psychological vibe and it moves at a quick pace. New details and twists in the story are constantly being revealed. A variety of strange situations bump into seeming normality, but nothing is normal about this story. It's presented in just such a way that while Dolan appears to slowly be lifting the curtain, there always seems something more is left in the shadows.

What I'm most curious about is why he chose this as his fourth feature. In a lot of ways it seems he chose it simply so he could flirt with a new genre. I didn't get the overall personal feeling I got from this three previous films. It's colder, and yet mildly campy with a level of over-the-top melodrama of which I wasn't quite sure if the audience was meant to laugh or take entirely serious.

Dolan's directorial eye is the strongest asset this film has. His compositions and seamless editing in conjunction with the sinister cinematography from André Turpin are enticing, even though the story itself begins to meander at times. In a lot of ways it felt very experimental, especially during scenes where the film's aspect ratio continued to change and the image began closing in on itself from top to bottom as the moment grew in intensity.

I enjoyed seeing Tom at the Farm in the same way anyone enjoys seeing the latest work from one of their favorite directors. At the same time, it's not his best. While I'm almost certain I'll feel comfortable watching anything Dolan makes from this point forward in the same way you can throw on most any Alfred Hitchcock film and know you're in for a film you'll, at the very least, enjoy, but Tom at the Farm isn't the first film from Dolan I'd recommend anyone see. Though, for those already initiated, it's an interesting diversion from his previous two films making it worth the watch at the very least.


More Movie Reviews

'Straight Outta Compton' (2015) Movie ReviewB-

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

'Mistress America' (2015) Movie ReviewB+

Mistress America (2015)

'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' (2015) Movie ReviewB

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

'Cop Car' (2015) Movie ReviewB-

Cop Car (2015)

More Reviews
  • http://www.twitter.com/GregDinskisk GregDinskisk

    Good review, Brad! Hoping I enjoy this a bit more than you, but it still seems like you enjoyed it!

  • http://themoviegurusblog.blogspot.com The Movie Guru

    Another disappointing addition to the festival group so far, but it does sound like something that I would like. Here's to hoping that Prisoners, Gravity and Dallas Buyers turned out a bit better!

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Fox/ Fox

      I know both Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are doing really well with early reviews.

      • http://themoviegurusblog.blogspot.com The Movie Guru

        Oh yeah, I am anxiously waiting for Brad's reviews on some of these films.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/ashdurdin/ ashdurdin

    Hmm, I think I've only heard of Dolan from the podcast, but this sounds interesting. I usually am sort of hesitant to approach foreign films, even though I shouldn't be.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

      Some of my favorite films are foreign, not just heavy dramas like The Hunt but comedies.and quirky romantic films too. French cinema is a good place to start, they seem to write characters beautifully.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/ashdurdin/ ashdurdin

        Yeah, I've seen quite a few German films (Run Lola Run is amazing), France may be a good place to start next.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

          Mammuth, Potiche and The Women on the 6th Floor are a good place to start, all three are light hearted, funny and charming. I also love Delicacy with the gorgeous Audrey Tautou.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ryguy815/ Ryguy815

    This sounds pretty interesting. I might check it out on DVD.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Hudsucker/ Hudsucker

    Bummer to hear Brad. Real bummer. I was hoping you'd enjoy this one.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Xarnis/ Xarnis

    Nice review, Brad.

    I haven't seen a Dolan film before, but this one seems very interesting. I will definitely check it out when the opportunity arises.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/HelloKitty/ Hello Kitty

    For giving it a bad grade, your review actually sounded positive.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/muldoon55/ muldoon55

      A "C+" isn't necessarily bad. I take it to mean slightly above average, like a 6/10 on a number scale.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Newbourne/ Newbourne

        A C+ is over 7.5/10 on the traditional number scale. It isn't that bad at all, especially considering that Brad thought it was above a C- which is where things start to get bleak in terms of letter-grading.

        F = lower than 6, D = lower than 7, C = lower than 8, B = lower than 9, A = 9 and above.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Jake17/ Jake17

    This sounds like something I'm going to love. Can't wait to see it, think I'll watch some of Dolan's other films since I haven't seen any yet.

    • http://www.twitter.com/GregDinskisk GregDinskisk

      Heartbeats is on Netflix Instant. It's pretty great, as is Laurence Anyways. I haven't seen his other two, but I will as soon as I possibly can.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Corbin/ Corbin

    Intriguing. Curious enough to see it, in fact.

  • http://couchpotatodigest.blogspot.com Matt Taylor

    I'm really interested in checking out Dolan's films. I believe "Laurence Anyways" is hitting DVD in the coming weeks, so ill be sure to rent it. As for "Tom at the Farm", it sounds quite interesting. Excellent review.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Corbin/ Corbin

    BTW, if anybody wants to know when the Rush review is coming back online, it's coming back September 9.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/maja/ maja

      Has there been an embargo on it?

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Corbin/ Corbin

        I don't know.

        • http://themoviegurusblog.blogspot.com The Movie Guru

          No. There have been reviews from Laremy, THR, Variety, JoBlo, ScreenCrush, The Playlist, ComingSoon, The Guardian, WhatCulture, and more.

          It's really odd.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Corbin/ Corbin

            I guess he just wanted to mix it in halfway through the festival.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/maja/ maja

    This is a really underwhelming start to Toronto! Loving the reviews Brad...keep 'em coming!

  • http://letterboxd.com/criterion10/ Criterion10

    I haven't seen any Dolan films yet, though I'm planning on renting his previous three films in the near future. This film too is one that I will eventually be checking out.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

    Shame you didn't enjoy Tom, judging by your review it does sound like a departure from his previous work. Dolan writes personal relationships beautifully and definitely has a talent for storytelling.
    I urge everyone to try one of his previous three features, Heartbeats is probably his most accessible but Lawrence Anyways is his real signature film. Dolan is likely to be a name we will all be familiar with in the future, he has so much talent and he's only mid twenties.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Anna/ Anna

    This movie just won the FIPRESCI award at Venice. Although I'm not a big fan of Dolan's previous work (Laurence Anyways is his best movie, but I think it has a lot of issues) I might check this one out in the future. He has talent but in my opinion he needs more discipline.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

      In ten years he'll still only be in his mid thirties and probably considered a veteran, he's achieved so much at an incredibly young age, especially if you check out his imdb page. Yes, i'm an admirer haha

  • http://www.twitter.com/marlonwallace marlonwallace

    'Laurence Anyways' feels to me like Dolan's least personal, mainly because Dolan is not an actor in it, but for other reasons as well.