Hafida Maghouti, translated by Kayla De Nardi and Rodolphe Leclerc
25 Avril 2014

If you thought Xavier Dolan’s latest film would bring you back to a more youthful time, then the title did a good job. "Tom at the Farm" is a schizophrenic and anxiety-inducing thriller that calls on a Hitchcockesque influence.

Photo Credit : DR
Photo Credit : DR
The plot is simple. Tom, a young publicist from Montreal heads to his very close colleague Guillaume’s funeral. With a bleached-out, dandy, and voluntarily disheveled look, he arrives at a sinister-looking isolated farm. There, he meets Agathe, the strange mother of the deceased, and her son Francis, the only safe keeper of the family, torn between his desire to flourish and his maternal bond. He’s Norman Bates lost somewhere in the body and violence of Stanley Kowalski. He tries by all means, but mainly using terror, to keep his disappeared brother’s sexuality secret and thus preserve the honor of this mysterious family. 

With a piercing score by Gabriel Yared, foggy scenes and glimpses of cornfields that go on for days, their ears sharp as knives, so the torment behind closed doors begins. 


The stage is set and the gloomy ambiance will only be emphasized exponentially. With tension in crescendo, we wait for the director’s next move. It’s too good to be true. So we ask ourselves, will the pressure fall like a soufflé taken too soon out of the oven ? Will it last to the height of the climax ? 

The macabre ambiance that reigns on-screen is only highlighted by the confirmation of the fear that the Canadian film prodigy falls flat on his face by missing what should be a crucial plot point. At the edge of our red velvet seats, we die of impatience. That’s when Dolan fools us, crumbling up and sprinkling the viewer’s uneasiness like a piece of stale bread. He pushes us and then consoles us ; he hits us and embraces us one after the other at an unrelenting rate, until the very end, the generic end that leaves us stupefied, breathless, and exhausted. 


Confronted with the mystery that surrounds the Longchamps estate and its members’ relations, Tom can be left nothing but divided between trust and fear that he inspires in them. However knowing Dolan, we know that maternal relationships are a theme that he cherishes quite particularly. The indefinable relationship between Francis and Tom could then seem quite surprising. 

Tom arrives at the farm like a subtle forbidden fruit who has to make the acquaintance of the beastlike local farmer, a suspiciously repressed homophobe. The world in which they must evolve becomes increasingly morbid as each character basks in their respective roles. Like a candle in the wind, a fourth character takes on the mighty challenge of acting as a tranquilizer in the living nightmare. 


An alarming score, shower scenes that give chills, running through cornfields… the allusions to Hitchcock cinema are numerous and at times anything less than subtle. However Dolan pleads innocent and claims that the similarities with the work of the master of suspense and MacGuffin are pure coincidence. Bad faith or sincere modesty ? It’s no matter, we acknowledge, without a doubt, the auteur and his talent. Xavier Dolan confirms his presence in the big leagues with this piece, far from what he had originally led us to believe. Far from being a hyper-stylized love story that would nonetheless have been charming, Tom at the Farm is raw and authentic. A true success.