Why does hardly anyone in the States know who Xavier Dolan is? It could be that he doesn’t make your run of the mill popcorn features meant to numb you for two hours. Or it could be that he’s from Montreal and it’s almost impossible to get a hold of his films. Either way, it’s a shame. His features I Killed My Mother, Matthias & Maxime, and Mommy are all spellbinding dramas set deep in the emotional heart. But the one I’m talking about right now is the 2013 film Tom at the Farm.
A French-Canadian film, meaning it’s spoken in French for those who avoid subtitles, about a young man who becomes the object of a violent farmer’s obsession. Tom at the Farm is not horror in the generic sense. If steered in a different direction it would have easily made for a disturbingly psychological mindf**k of a film, but it prefers a delicate approach. More of an erotic thriller with a very human type of dread. The fear isn’t for the audience to experience themselves, but to connect with the central character as he’s broken into submission. The best way to describe the film is “creepy.”
Dolan co-wrote, directed and stars in the film based on the play by Michel Marc Bouchard. For those into the compare and contrast, book vs movie argument, the playwright was the one who co-wrote the script with Dolan so it’s a worthy adaptation from the original creator himself. I myself prefer the film version because it’s more sinister in its execution.
Meeting the in-laws
When his boyfriend Guillaume dies unexpectedly, Tom (Dolan) travels to the country to meet his in-laws. He meets Guillaume’s mother Agatha (Lise Roy), who had no clue that he even existed or that her son was gay, and Guillaume’s violent older brother Frances (Pierre-Yves Cardinal). The beginning of the film starts with Tom writing a speech he’s prepared for the funeral and it tells you everything you need to know about what’s to come. He writes, “now, all I can do without you, is replace you.”
One of the films few flaws is that we don’t see enough of certain scenes or get enough backstory behind certain moments. From the moment Tom arrives, Frances expresses a deep interest in him that’s bordered on obsession long before they’ve even met. A year before the funeral, Tom and Frances spoke on the phone by accident. Frances called his brother’s apartment and Tom picked up, and Frances remembers almost every word spoken between them.
Frances himself is a great mystery, as was his relationship with the deceased. The guy is either a psychopath or an incredibly dysfunctional lovesick brute. It’s clear that his interest in Tom has something to do with his brother. What that is exactly is up for personal interpretation. Unfortunately, his interest is the worst thing he could ever inflict on Tom. It’s as violent as it is unsettling. There are times where it feels like he is one step away from ripping Tom open and just eating him, citing the Jeffery Dahmer excuse.
“The guy wanted to leave and I didn’t want him to leave” – Dahmer when speaking about his first victim.
The terror begins
Frances refuses to let Tom leave. Using his grief to manipulate his perception of the farm. It’s during this point in the movie where the creep factor kicks it up a notch. About 35 minutes in, Tom accepts the prison as his new reality and just goes along with it. He even grows attached to Frances, developing Stockholm Syndrome. There’s a point where he taps into his captor’s mentality to threaten another guest of the house. The speech at the beginning once again comes into play, “all I can do is replace you.”
Most of the film is Frances and Tom playing their cat and mouse game with the odds very against the poor little mouse. It’s easy to have a love-hate relationship with Tom at the Farm. To be completely enthralled by the central relationship while also screaming at Tom to run away. The acceptance of everything, compiled with the laser focus that is Frances’s “affection” is what’s truly frightening. The psychosexual abuse feels like Frances’s way of saying “I love you”, and it makes the whole thing way more disturbing then it already is.(4 / 5)