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I Killed My Mother 

An assured debut from a young Canadian filmmaker about a troubled mother-son relationship

Hubert (Xavier Dolan) can' t stand his mom.

Hubert (Xavier Dolan) can' t stand his mom.

Xavier Dolan' s semi-autobiographical debut, I Killed My Mother, depicts the troubled relationship between a gay Montreal teen named Hubert (Dolan) and his single mother (Anne Dorval). They share a cramped apartment, where the high-strung Hubert is tormented by his mother' s tacky style, and her insistence on caring for him. They bicker, make up and secretly fear losing the other' s love. (Hubert bemoans: "If my mother and I were strangers, I' m sure we' d get along.") 

Dolan was only 20 when the film was made, in 2009. (It is only now receiving U.S. distribution.) But he shows confidence in presenting a typical story in an atypical fashion. The film deftly switches from narrative to black-and-white confessionals to still photography, with digressions into philosophy and literature.

Dolan also wrote the script. While some of Hubert' s ruminations seem a bit too erudite for a 16-year-old, the mother-son arguments feel natural, escalating out of "nothing" (the volume of the radio news, for instance) and grow increasingly ugly. But equally well done are their more subdued and awkward reconciliations. The road these two are on is rocky, but beneath the rubble is a great deal of love and longing.

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