No matter how you end up feeling about it, there sure is a lot of movie in Mommy, Xavier Dolan's exuberant melodrama about an emotional firecracker of a teenager who, after being kicked out of a specialized school for setting the cafeteria on fire, goes home to live with his fiftyish mother, a woman who at first doesn't seem to have fought her way past adolescence herself. Die (Anne Dorval) favors el-cheapo vertiginous heels and fringy-flared acid-wash jeans, things even the genuinely youthful customers of Hot Topic and Forever 21 would probably find garish. Although she doesn't have the means to support her ADHD son Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon) -- Steve's father, her husband, has been dead for several years, and she's never gotten back on her feet -- she has no choice but to bring him home.
Their relationship is uneasy, mostly because Steve is truly a handful: Mischievously charismatic, with his boy-band pout and peroxide quiff, he's given to boisterous singing and mugging that can tip into rage at any minute. But what Dolan captures, vigorously, is the frazzled affection that connects mother and son.
Steve's reappearance also brings her a new and much-needed friend, Kyla (Suzanne Clément), who's just moved in to the neighborhood. Kyla, a teacher, has suffered some unspecified trauma, resulting in a debilitating stutter that prevents her from working. In his fifth feature, the precocious Québécois writer-director Dolan — who is only 25 — has wrought not just a story about a fraught but tenacious mother-son relationship, but a believable portrait of a friendship between lonely women, a connection that springs from urgency and desperation only to settle in to something that seems preordained and essential.