Transsexualism is a feeling of identification with a gender inconsistent or not culturally associated with their assigned sex. For example where a persons assigned sex at birth conflicts with their psychological gender. Which is much different from what is referred to as transvestic fetishism a name given to those who are thought to have an excessive sexual or erotic interest in cross-dressing. Xavier Dolan’s third feature film after I Killed My Mother (2009) and Heartbeats (2010) is about the former. Laurence Anyways (2012) deals with a couple who are very much in love but are going through a enormous change, the male has disclosed that he has always felt more like a female than a man.
Laurence Ali is a 34-year-old teacher, an intelligent gentle man who is very much in love with Frederique Belair and has no desire that their loving relationship should end. But he always felt that his gender was an accident of birth and see’s himself as a man aging in the skin of a woman. Something that has been driving Laurence Ali insane since he was eight years old when he first started to dress as a young girl, something that has carried forward into his adult life. It has come to a point where he wants to go through the transformation, and 'come out' as a female, with the help of hormones his body can slowly change shape and in due course he can have a sexual reversal operation.
From this rather revolution disclosure Dolan's camera follow’s the couple and we discover how they manage to deal with such a traumatic experience. What affects will Laurence’s decision have on them and will being in love be enough to save their relationship or will it
turn both their lives upside down. Do they both have transsexual traits; will the relationship work if they both exchange genders? A great touch was giving the leading lady a male name! It’s obvious that Fred is happy to live on the edge of 'normal' society and that the change will give Laurence a sense of relief but Fred feels she is loosing her identity, a sense of delayed shock perhaps or maybe she does not realise how much it's affecting her.
Xavier Dolan always intended to make this film even before his first two releases, but in the end had to wait three years before the camera’s finally rolled on this excellent piece of storytelling. Dolan had total control with everything planned, the great music, the editing, the beautifully composed camera work and how the actors should perform, a formula that is swiftly becoming this French-Canadian’s trademark. He also uses a similar cast in each of his movies, which brings continuity to his filmmaking. The film features one of his regular actresses Suzanne Clement, from whom he extracts a fantastic emotive performance as Fred. Laurence is equally as well portrayed by the wonderful Melvil Poupaud, the more female his character gets the more you except him. Nathalie Baye is Laurence’s mother Julienne with another Dolan regular Monia Chokri as Fred’s sister Stefie and there’s even a small part for Anne Dorval.
I can’t help but marvel at Xavier Dolan’s undeniable filmmaking skill, he must never compromises his unique talent and I would state that he is the best-unknown film director working in the movie industry at present. Hopefully his latest film Mommy (2014) will bring him the attention he so obviously deserves. I can say without doubt that this young man has not made a bad film to date. Most deal with what could be described by some as taboo subjects, with Dolan things that could be conceived as different, are treated as normal in such a way that the audience are invited to treat the subject the same way. Transsexuality is never an easy subject but films like this can broaden the outlook of a society that still in many ways does not except people of differing sexual preferences. The film is set in the 80's and 90's and we can see quite clearly how things have not changed that much!