Xavier Dolan has made his mark on cinema by making films that are uniquely his own. The young auteur marches to the beat of his own drum, claiming that his work is "not that influenced by directors". For his 2013 suspense thriller "Tom at the Farm" however, Dolan seems to have drawn obvious inspiration from the master himself. The film's DNA is Hitchcockian, but with enough of the director's signature touches to make it outstanding.
"Tom at the Farm" follows our titular Tom (Xavier Dolan) as he makes his way to the countryside for the funeral of his lover Guillaume. As he arrives to meet Guillaume's family for the first time, he quickly realizes that his mother was never aware of the relationship. Before Tom can reveal the true nature of their relationship however, Guillaume's brother Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) stops him in his tracks. In order to prevent further distress to his grieving mother, Guillaume warns Tom not to tell his brother's secret. The funeral soon passes without incident, but Tom finds that he's unable to escape the grip of this intimidating man. Psychological games ensue and Tom begins to fear that he's in serious danger.
From the chilly cinematography to the sterile production design, "Tom at the Farm" is unlike any other Dolan film. His usually showy style and heightened emotions give way to restrained austerity and simmering tension. The film's central dynamic revolves around the relationship between Tom and Guillaume, which develops over the course of the film and fuels the plot. It's here that Dolan asserts his personal touch, applying a subtext of homoeroticism between the two, with just enough ambiguity to maintain the mystery throughout.
On this note, the film is noteworthy for containing Dolan's best acting performance. As the camera lingers on him, you feel his sense of unease as his face registers subtle hints of the truth that he dare not reveal. As his tormentor, Pierre-Yves Cardinal is also a strong presence in the film, using his imposing physicality to good effect. Of the three main actors, Lise Roy is the weak link, giving a rather crude interpretation of the fierce protective mother.
All in all, "Tom at the Farm" may not be Xavier Dolan's most original work, but it's an exquisite exercise in genre filmmaking, crafted with economical precision. He shows a strong understanding of what makes a thriller tick and in the process, demonstrates a range that wasn't evident in his previous work. This invaluable asset may well turn out to be the most impressive aspect of his promising career.