The gifted auteur Xavier Dolan continues to find his always vibrant and committed voice by moving into Polanski territory with this very strong psychological thriller. Dolan takes admirable risks while utilizing many trademarks of the genre to great effect without bordering on pastiche, most notably Gabriel Yared’s superb score which reminisces Hitchcockian composer Bernard Herrmann.
Following the to-the-point title, Tom (Xavier Dolan) attends the funeral of his dead lover to discover that their relationship and their homosexuality had been kept secret from the deceased’s mother, Agathe (Lise Roy). The twisted and disturbed brother, Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal, winner of the John Krasinski doppelgänger award), attempts to keep the secret hidden, trapping Tom at their house on a farm and forcing him to adopt the role Francis has written for him to satisfy his grieving mother. Soon enough though, Tom stops fighting Francis’ torment and becomes more passive to the game by accepting his new role within the “family”, introducing a Stockholm Syndrome aspect as a vehicle to explore homophobia.
There appropriately remains an eerily romantic element to Tom At the Farm that is present in Dolan’s last two features. Francis’ motives appear to be driven for his mothers benefit, but it becomes clear that his need for Tom to stay on the farm is self-serving as he battles repressed homosexual feelings with deranged and violent homophobia that constantly blurs lines for Tom and the viewer. The psychology meanders considerably and it becomes questionable to what degree you’ll believe that Tom would become infatuated with the game and his tormentor, but there is a clever commentary on dominance and family relationships from Dolan that is more subtly evoked between Francis and Agathe as the seemingly feeble mother holds power over her son whenever she desires to use it.
As always it’s assured work from Dolan, the Canadian writer-director-star who creates an unpredictable narrative and a stellar atmosphere throughout which suffocates you in suspense.