After abandoning his mother, brother and sister twelve years ago, Louis returns to his small-town family, a visit that turns into a whirlwind of painful emotions and familial chaos.
Twelve years ago Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) left his family. He is now a critically-acclaimed writer, but also terminally ill and is returning home to tell the mother (Nathalie Baye), sister (Léa Seydoux) and brother (Vincent Cassel) he left behind long ago. As expected, the interactions between all family members begin awkwardly with the arrival of Louis, and everyone seems to be attempting to be on their best behaviour. As the day progresses and each character begins to feel more comfortable, true feelings come to light and the pain of abandonment and confusion break through.
Director Xavier Dolan intensely focuses on the conversations and interactions between the family members to show not just Louis’s fractured relationship with them, but how strained every relationship is within the family. He does this brilliantly, as it becomes obvious that maybe some relationships are just too broken to mend. Unfortunately though, Dolan does drag these conversations out much longer than they actually need to be as words and points seem to become repeated to a stage where it’s almost frustrating.
The cinematography is truly outstanding at some points, especially when the audience is shown richly coloured and artistically composed scenes of Louis’s past. After the family reminisces about their frequent Sunday jaunts through beautiful French vineyards and their food-filled picnics, the audience is shown stunning scenes mimicking their beauty. These include visions of a bright red dress flowing in the gentle summer breeze, a picnic blanket thrown in the air against a bright blue clear summer’s sky, and a young Louis and his older brother running through the expansive green fields, laughing in the warm sunlight.
Each member of this star-filled cast completely embodies their damaged character within the larger fractured family, though it really is the dominating female characters that shine through. Unfortunately, the central character, Louis, is somewhat under-stated and a more emotional performance from Gaspard Ulliel would have enriched the character’s presence on screen. Vincent Cassel makes us hate his frustratingly cruel and petty older brother Antoine, who is also terrifying in his dominating and unpredictable aggression.
Léa Seydoux brilliantly captures the frustration of being the younger sister, Suzanne, of a brother who left her behind, and another with severe anger issues. It’s heartbreaking watching Seydoux portray Suzanne’s determined attempts to create a relationship with a brother she does not know is dying. Marion Cotillard, with her stuttering, low voice and timid movements, is perfect as the gentle and quiet wife, Catherine, of the unpleasant Antoine.
It’s Only the End of the World is an intense emotional drama that shows the intriguing breakdown of a family torn apart by feelings of abandonment and resentment.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Rating out of 10: 7
It’s Only the End of the World will screen again on 9, 12, 17, 22 April for the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival, which runs 30 March – 23 April 2017 exclusively at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.