Matthias & Maxime
Xavier Dolan's last few films have been disappointments, but he's back to his best with this tender study of a male friendship which may be developing to something more romantic
No matter how solid the foundations of a friendship can appear, a single action can cause an irrevocable rupture. In Xavier Dolan’s Matthias & Maxime, it’s a kiss shared between the titular best friends (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas and Xavier Dolan) on the set of a student film. The meeting of lips forces them to reevaluate both their relationship and themselves.
Such a premise risks becoming overly saccharine, but Dolan displays growth that comes from the maturity since the Québécois director exploded on the scene at 20 with I Killed My Mother. Like all of his films, Matthias & Maxime grapples with questions of identity and sexuality, but the film pares back the melodrama of his recent efforts. Much of the action is internal, desire is repressed intensely to the brink of self-destruction. What a relief to see Xavier Dolan do what he does best.
Matthias & Maxime is, expectedly, a film of two halves, following the two men as they individually absorb the events that transpired. Matt lives a comfortable life working as a lawyer with a girlfriend at home. The offer of retreat into the closet is tantalising, especially with the arrival of an aggressively masculine client, played to perfection by Harris Dickinson. Max struggles to take care of his recently sober mother, while his big move to Australia looms. The director’s presence is felt in both, and ideas of class are observed with insightfulness and breezy confidence.
The film plays around with aspect ratios, though Dolan refrains from indulging in visual bravado. Matthias & Maxime is refreshingly grounded, yet a frenetic energy permeates the film – the camera darts around and zooms, injecting conversations and arguments with the vitality of energised youth.
A pair of misfires (It's Only the End of the World, The Death & Life of John F Donovan) after the soaring highs of his masterpiece Mommy planted fears that Dolan was getting caught up in his growing ambitions. But by returning to his roots, he grows out of his ‘enfant terrible’ label and returns to form.
Matthias & Maxime had its world premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, and is now streaming on MUBI
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