Laurence Anyways, the new Canadian film written and directed by Xavier Dolan, as described on Rotten Tomatoes: “Laurence, a French teacher and soon-to-be-published author, enjoys an intense and mutually loving relationship with his fiancée, Frédérique. But on the day after his 35th birthday, Laurence confesses to Fred that he longs to become a woman, asking her to support his transformation.” The leads are played by Melvil Poupaud (Laurence) and Suzanne Clément (Fred).
Time period?The 1980’s to 90’s. “Our generation can take this; we’re ready for it,” Laurence’s fiancée remarks to her sister, who doesn’t seem so sure.
The Laurence Anyways trailer for U.S. audiences:
Is the three-hour length a problem? Yes, for many—and it comes up a lot in the reviews. But the declaration of Noah Tsika, The Huffington Post, is that sometimes longer is good, or at least okay: “The film’s running time is entirely necessary. You don’t feel it…”
It’s About Love
Dolan tells Tyler Coates in an interview for Flavorwire, “I’ve never thought of it as a story about a trans person. The story does not revolve around LGBT issues or the hardships of sexual transition — it’s always been a love story from the very beginning.”
Tomas Hachard, NPR: “This film is as much a portrait of a loving if dysfunctional couple as it is an examination of identity.”
Laurence’s Admission Regarding Gender Identity
When Laurence announces, early in the movie, her need to transition, Fred says to her (according to Olivia Collette at rogerebert.com): “Everything I love about you is what you hate about yourself.” Laurence asks, “That’s everything you love about me?”
Laurence’s fiancée makes it clear, though, that she does want to make things work. “If you want to take the next step, I’m your man,” Frédérique tells Laurence.
Other Responses as Laurence Transitions
David Lewis, San Francisco Chronicle: “Laurence’s compelling interactions with his icy mother (Nathalie Baye, wonderful) pack a wallop without resorting to theatrics. Laurence’s first day in class dressed as a woman is an unforgettable exercise in silence.”
Noah Tsika, The Huffington Post, elaborates on Frédérique’s family dynamics:
Throughout the film, Fred must contend with two terrifyingly contemptuous familial forces: her imperious mother, Andrée (Sophia Faucher), and her more disturbingly dismissive sister, Stéfie (played by Dolan stalwart Monia Chokri), whose self-consciously ‘hip,’ semi-punk style is little more than a half-assed affectation, as she demonstrates when expressing disgust over LGBT concerns. Stéfie may support abortion rights, drug abuse, and casual sex, and in so doing seem ‘progressive,’ but she appears to accept the historically specific, pseudoscientific party line on transgenderism: that it’s a ‘mental illness.’
Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter: “…a sumptuously orchestrated love story about a transsexual man’s decade-long struggle to maintain a passionate romance with his female soulmate in the face of creeping hostility from friends, family and society”.
To Sum It All Up
Olivia Collette, rogerebert.com: “The film’s biggest strength is dealing with a taboo as if it wasn’t…Despite her ability for great tenderness, Laurence can also be selfish and rude. She’s not an angelic transgender heroine; she’s just exceedingly normal.”
Joe Peeler, Paste: ”…(I)f the movie were to grow legs and walk down the street, the reaction would be much the same as that of so many bystanders to Laurence himself, over six feet tall, heels, wig, manly face, flashy dress. Some will gawk, some will avert their eyes, but others still will be unexpectedly smitten.”