Tom At The Farm, the fourth feature from French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan, is a psychological thriller that challenges the audience to confront the fragility of the human mind following the death of a loved one.
In this adaptation of Michel Marc Bouchard’s play, Dolan thrusts the audience into the desolate and isolated rural community that Tom (pictured above), played by Dolan himself, travels to for his boyfriend Guillame’s funeral.
Tom’s excruciatingly painful awkwardness is immediately in plain view when he meets his lover’s mother, Agathe (Lise Roy). Accepting the invitation to stay the night at the farm before the funeral, Tom also encounters Guillame’s brother, Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) for the first time.
Francis, a looming figure whose face is hidden at first, physically assaults Tom in the middle of the night and forces him to agree to not reveal the secret of Guillame’s sexuality to his mother.
Tom is forced into a cruel and sado-masochistic mind game with the homophobic and volatile Francis, who forces Tom to acquiesce to a fake story about how he is only Guillame’s co-worker and tell Agathe about how her son’s made-up girlfriend, Sara, was too overcome with grief to attend the funeral.
Agathe accepts this version of events without question and seems to preoccupied by her grief to notice Francis’ abusive and manipulative nature.
Dolan’s keeps the audience on the edge of their seats by showing how an emotionally fragile but otherwise rational mind like Tom’s can make irrational decisions that can have dire consequences.
He has several chances to escape the farm, but he chooses to stay. Whether this is out of fear of or a deeper attraction to Francis, it is hard to tell, as the audience is left wondering if Tom is suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
There is a scene in which Francis, who reveals that he and his brother took dancing lessons when they were younger, forces Tom to dance with him in the vast open space of a shed. This sexual tension between the two comes to a boil as Tom tells to his captor of how he has the same voice and looks as Guillame.
It is not until the arrival of the fictitious girlfriend Sara, who also happens to be Tom’s friend, that forces Tom to snap out of his reverie.
Tom At The Farm is a well-crafted and gripping film with moments of tender and raw human emotion used to break up the suspense.
As Tom finally escapes the isolation and quiet of the farm and returns to the city, there is a sense of resolution for the protagonist’s emotional turmoil, but the mind returns to the opening scene in which he scribbles on a piece of kitchen paper with a blue felt pen: “Today, a part of me has died. And I cannot mourn, because I’ve forgotten all the synonyms of ‘sadness’. Now, all that I can do without you is replace you.”