Xavier Dolan’s new film follows a group of 30-something friends, their bonds and their arguments, as confusion surfaces after an unexpected kiss.
The latest film from Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan is more mature and less flashy than much of his earlier work but still made with flair and style – and plenty of talking. After his less successful foray into English-speaking cinema with The Death & Life of John F Donovan, he is back in his native French-speaking Canada.
The eponymous Matthias and Maxime, now in their late 20s, have been friends since childhood and move in a tight circle of friends, used to partying and enjoying life. Maxime (played by Dolan himself) has been caring for his ex-addict mother but is making a break for freedom, heading off to Australia. Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas) is working at a law firm and in a long-term relationship with a woman, making a clean-cut life for himself. But Maxime’s anticipated move is causing ructions in his tight group of friends, as well as with his aunt who will take over caring for his mother.
When Matthias’s annoying sister asks the two friends to share an onscreen kiss for her student short film, tensions are heightened. They find themselves confused by their resulting feelings, their only half-acknowledged desire, and what that means for themselves, each other, Maxime’s imminent trip and Matthias’s desire for conformity in the corporate world.
This is a quiet, mature film about friendships, sexuality and uncertainty with fewer of the stylistic flourishes of Dolan’s earlier work, but with plenty of the razor-sharp intelligence and intensity we have come to expect from him, and more tenderness. Somehow it felt to me like a gentle blend of Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, the discursive works of Eric Rohmer and the swirl of male friendship in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused.
Matthias and Maxime is available from today on MUBI , together with a Q&A with Dolan in which he explores his motivations for making movies, the directors who inspire him and the roles he is drawn to as an actor.