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Film / I Killed My Mother

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"I don't know what happened. When I was little, we loved each other. I still love her. I can look at her, talk to her, be next to her. But...I can't be her son. I could be anyone's son. But not hers."
— Opening monologue of Hubert Minel

I Killed My Mother (French: J'ai tué ma mère) is a 2009 Canadian French-language drama film written, directed, co-produced by and starring Xavier Dolan. Written by Dolan at 16 and produced when he was 20, the film served as his directorial debut, loosely based on his real life.

Hubert Minel (Dolan) is a 16-year-old boy in a complicated relationship with his mother Chantale (Anne Dorval). He loudly objects to virtually all she says or does, but constantly falls victim to what he perceives as mechanisms of manipulation and guilt-tripping from her. In the midst of his anger and confusion, Hubert drifts through his adolescence by way of artistic discoveries, illicit experiences, and struggles with ostracism.

I Killed My Mother attracted international attention when it won three awards from the Director's Fortnight program at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, where it also received an 8-minute standing ovation after being shown.

I Killed My Mother provides examples of:

  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Antonin helps Hubert escape from boarding school, and then proceeds to accuse him of being selfish and only caring about himself. At the end, he breaks down, and admits, "I love you."
  • Autobiographical Role: Xavier Dolan, the writer and director, wrote the script when he was sixteen and based much of it off of his own life. Since he plays the lead role, it appears he's playing a version of himself.
  • Boarding School: Hubert is sent to one. It doesn't end well.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Xavier Dolan, François Arnaud, and Niels Schneider. And they're all speaking French, to boot.
  • Forced Out of the Closet: Hélène offhandedly mentions what a nice couple their sons make to Chantale. Hubert hadn't come out to his mother yet; she's upset not that he's gay (she already knew, of course), but that he didn't tell her. Cue another shouting match.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Hubert believes he has some sort of epiphany under the influence of speed, and rushes back home in the middle of the night to tell his mother.
  • Mommy Issues: Hubert has plenty, and it's the central theme of the film.
  • My Beloved Smother: Hubert views Chantale as one.
  • Off to Boarding School: Invoked by Hubert's Disappeared Dad rather than his mother's new significant other. While the decision to send Hubert away is hypothetically a collective one between both of his parents, it comes across more as Richard dealing with Chantale's inability to take care of Hubert and Richard's lack of desire to take control of custody.
  • Parents as People: The film gives Chantale a fair, three-dimensional portrayal as it does Hubert.
  • Saying Too Much: Antonin's mother runs into Chantale at one point, and in making small talk mentions that her son and Hubert have been together for two months, inadvertently outing him, as Chantale didn't know he was gay.
  • Teachers Out of School: Subverted, since Hubert and Julie regularly converse outside of school, and Hubert even crashes at her house a few times.
  • There's No Place Like Home: When Hubert runs away, the first place he thinks to go is his "kingdom," his name for his childhood home.
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: Technically, his dad invites him over, and only to tell him that he's being sent off to boarding school. Usually, Hubert only sees his father twice a year, on Christmas and Easter.
  • Wham Line: While Hubert and Chantale spend most of the film switching between loving and hating each other, Chantale does admit in clear form at one point how deep her love for Hubert ultimately is at the bottom of everything.
    Hubert: What would you do if I died today?
    (Chantale doesn't respond, he walks away angrily)
    Chantale (quietly): I'd die tomorrow.