His lover has died in the big city. And Tom needs to go to the funeral.
But it’s out in the country. His lover’s family are farm folk. And they don’t know Tom (Xavier Dolan) exists. Because they don’t know Guillaume was gay.
“Tom at the Farm” is an intimately alarming French-Canadian thriller about what Tom endures on that farm, where he is trapped physically and mentally by Guillaume’s brute of a diary farmer brother, Francis.
Pierre-Yves Cardinal plays Francis with a mixture of confusion, concern and fury that will chill you to the bone. At first, it just seems as if he’s “protecting” his brother’s memory.
“Don’t tell my mother nothing, OK?”
He punctuates this “request” with the threat of violence. Francis strips the tires off Tom’s Volvo. He watches him like a hawk.
And in the day or three leading up to the funeral, Tom endures chokings, slaps and beatings.
Tom endures them without fighting back, doing penance for Guillaume’s death. His wrists were bandaged when he arrived.
Mother Agathe (Lise Roy) does not have a clue. She wants to know all about her boy’s life in the city, his imaginary girlfriend Sarah.
But there’s something to the violence that makes us wonder about the “phobia” part of Francis’s homophobia.
Tom toys with this, and when he invites (persuades) the imaginary girlfriend (Evelyne Brochu) to show up, the whole dynamic threatens to turn on its head. She’s not scared of Francis. Can she extract Tom from this mess?
Dolan, who directed and co-adapted Michel Marc Dolan’s play, keeps his cards close and preserves mystery and tension as he does. Tom asks around, starts piecing together the life Guillaume fled and the trap Francis created for himself.
This production, in French with English subtitles, has a melancholy air, shot in the grim greys and muted blues and browns of the dead-end town and dead-end life Francis seems to be lashing out against.
The title is as banal as the world this cat-and-mouse game is set in. But don’t be fooled. There’s intrigue, danger, fear and hope all clinging to Tom as he visits the farm.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with violence and violent sexual situations, profanity
Cast: Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy, Evelyne Brochu
Credits: Directed by Xavier Dolan, script by Michel Marc Bouchard and Xavier Dolan, based on Bouchard’s play. An Amplify release.
Running time: 1:42