Going to the movies nowadays means being subjected to an overwhelming amount of special effects and green screens. We have gotten used to the moving image moving too fast, at a pace the audience can barely follow. Simplicity has become an endangered species in the world of cinema. A film that is simple in the way it is presented to its audience can be very complex in its composition and writing, and this is exactly what “Juste La Fin Du Monde” stands for.
Xavier Dolan’s sixth film is based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce and tells the story of Louis (Gaspard Ulliel), a writer estranged from his family, who decides to come home after twelve years of absence to announce that he is terminally-ill. It opens with Camille’s song “Home Is Where it Hurts,” which immediately sets the tone for the film: a home filled with conflict, regret, and open wounds.
The family members present throughout the film are his mother (Nathalie Baye), his brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel), his sister Suzanne (Léa Seydoux), and his brother’s wife Catherine (Marion Cotillard), whom he meets for the first time.
Dolan’s camera favors extreme close-ups, which heighten every flicker of emotion, as if the actors were being examined under the microscope. This allows the film to focus on meaningful silences and the communication through gaze. Louis and Suzanne’s relationship is particularly defined by this last aspect. She unravels his secret with a long, magnificently-acted silent conversation, which consists of them looking at each other. It is clear through her expression that she understands the reason behind his visit. This moment is an addition to Dolan’s list of memorable, magnificent scenes, such as the one in “Mommy” (2014) in which the protagonist expands the shot with a movement of his hands to the backdrop of Oasis’ “Wonderwall.”
“Juste La Fin Du Monde” zooms in on Louis’ distance from his family members, who all see him as a stranger. His character is very interesting as his dialogue is very scarce, but he is omnipresent throughout the film. He does not know how to react to the hysterical surroundings, but clearly accepts his family’s flaws. His singularity indicates that he is constantly seeking to escape, through his mind, from a house where nobody really listens because they are afraid of the truth. This need for evasion is visually shown in a colorful flashback from his past, with old music blasting as he reminisces simpler times.
In contrast to the protagonist, the family members are loud and conflicting. Their nervousness and jumpiness around Louis are evident, as they blabber on and talk without ever meaning anything. They do say a lot in their dialogue, but never what is essential. This superficiality is a consequence of the characters’ inability to communicate, which forms a barrier in their relationships. This film’s characters are portrayed in a realistic manner. They are annoying, scared, emotional, but most of all, they are human. There is a lot of credibility in the way they are written and performed, which is furthest from caricature and closest to reality.
Xavier Dolan directs a film where the spoken is nonsensical and the silences are most meaningful. “Juste La Fin Du Monde” is a perfect example of what cinema should reflect: our imperfections, our turbulent relationships, and most importantly, our reality.
As Louis says, “It’s just a family meal… not the end of the world.”