Laurence Anyways: A cross-gender love tale lands on hard realities

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By Manar Ammar

The third feature film from Canadian director Xavier Dolan, lovingly nicknamed Canada’s “terrible infant,” Laurence Anyways puts a strong visual statement on the complexity of transgendered lives, in a tale that spans nearly three hours.

Dolan is clearly passionate about his story even when at times, it feels that he stretched too thin to create a grand tale of love in the midst of societal pressures and controversy.

Screening at the Cannes International Film Festival last year, the film created buzz, landing the lead actress, the persuasive and convincing Suzanne Clement, the best actress award in the special section Un Certain Regard section, for playing Laurence’s lover Fred.

The well-acted story meanders from throughout the two main story lines, Fred and Laurence. The supporting cast speaks of Dolan’s ability to achieve sincere reflections from his litany of actors. Yet Dolan, who seems to have been manifested as the love child of Fellini and MTV here, create’s a visual delicacy with his precise modern art frames  and plenty of 1980s and 1990s music, pumping more energy into the film.

In the late 1980s, Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) is a teacher and aspiring writer who is in love with Fred (Clement) but, at his 30th birthday he confides to her that he is a woman on the inside and that he choose to end the lie of his life as man and embrace life in another gender.

Fred is expectedly upset but, decides to see him through this, falling under the weight of the ordeal between her love for him and the changes he is going through. She fails to handle pressure and decides to end it. Fast forward nearly a decade and she is married with a son and a socially acceptable role as a wife and mother; as normal as she will ever come close to having.

The pair reunite after Laurence, who had been living abroad, returns to Canada for the launch of his first book.

Laurence has already started his metamorphosis and despite the film remaining obscure to the surgical and physical changes, the focus remains on their passion for each other. They pick up where they left off years ago and escape to one of Fred’s dream destinations, the Isle of Black, but Fred is confronted by what it would be like to live together again when meeting another trans couple.

They are broken again but, never out of love. The film’s connection with its patient audience laid on the shoulders of the great acting ensemble, in addition to some imaginative visual poetry, this tale of an anguished love in difficult times could win your heart.

Dolan’s enthusiasm to making big films is apparent but, still not quite fully realized, as big and full the film was, it remained faithful to a self-indulgent narrative that at times felt stuffy instead of effortless.  

** This was one of five LGBT films that showed at the Sonoma International Film Festival from April 10-14.

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