top of page
  • Writer's picturezandaleeindigo

Mommy and My Second Favorite Use Of "Wonderwall"

The last few months of my life have been filled with a lot of big events (including the election) and a lot of change (that's college for you). Because of this when I found myself overwhelmed with life come November 3rd, I decided to do what I've always done----watch a movie as a form of escapism. But I had no idea when I chose to finally watch Xavier Dolan's Mommy (2014) it would only throw me into a state of deeper emotional turmoil, and that's just what I needed.

The movie is fully French and set in Canada following a young single mother, Diane "Die" Després, her son Steve, and their neighbor Kyla as they navigate their day to day life. Steve is fifteen, full of energy, and diagnosed with a very aggressive form of ADHD that causes him to act out in some very violent ways. His mother loves him unconditionally but finds it hard to balance her working life and making sure Steve is receiving the attention he needs, even with the help of Kyla homeschooling him. The film begins with Steve being kicked out of a detention center for setting a boy on fire and then deals with Diane's struggles having him at home as well as the subsequent fallout of his actions. It's a brilliant character study and a look at some of the effects of mental illness, but more than anything I loved it for its visual storytelling and how well it intertwined with the soundtrack.

The film's soundtrack is comprised of a majority French and English artists ranging from Vivaldi to Celine Dion to Lana Del Rey. Dolan was able to use this music to not only give more characterization to our protagonists but to also really transport us to the early 2010s. Hearing Steve blast "Blue" by Eiffel 65 in an act of defiance while Kyla struggled to teach him told me exactly what kind of teenage boy he is (we've all known one like that come on), and also transported me back to a time where I willingly listened to that song. The music along with the styling (I want every single one of Die's outfits thank you) gave the film that authenticity that feeds into nostalgia and I felt it only lended to me becoming attached to all the characters.

Visually, the film literally looks claustrophobic. It's shot with a 1:1 ratio so every frame is extremely small, then add the English subtitles needed to understand the dialogue and each moment of the film feels tight. I think this works on two levels, when two characters (like Steve and Diane) are both in the same shot it can convey a level of closeness between them as they both take up this very small space on screen. Conversely, when two characters are interacting but both get their own individual shots (like early conversations between Diane and Kyla) it shows this distance between them as they communicate. The stifling nature of this aspect ratio also helps the audience connect with our main characters as they face a myriad of struggles and desperately search for a way out. You feel cornered, and stuck, just like them and it only raises the stakes.

But clearly my favorite part of the movie, and what you're all here for, is the "Wonderwall" montage. To be clear there are two absolutely amazing montages within the film, those who have seen it can attest to this, and I will likely talk about both when I make a post that I'm planning dedicated to my favorite film montages (so keep an eye out for that!). I'm choosing right now to write about the earlier montage because I have a soft spot for Oasis and because the feeling it gave me was unforgettable.

It's nearly halfway through the film, once Die, Steve, and Kyla truly come together for the first time and are seriously bonding. The montage starts out with Steve on his longboard with his headphones on as the first guitar strokes of "Wonderwall" begin to play. We then get two single shots of the wheels of two bikes intercut with footage of Kyla tutoring Steve and Die working as a cleaning woman for rich people. There's another shot of Steve riding alone before it's revealed that Diane and Kyla are on the bikes riding with him and all three of them take up the tiny frame. Then in one swift movement Steve stretches toward the camera and literally changes the aspect ratio by pushing against the frame.

My mouth hung wide open in shock watching this the first time and I'm pretty sure I teared up. The wider aspect ratio coupled with Steve's face after the shift really signaled to the audience that we could take a breath. It conveyed a level of comfort and contentment between the characters, one we hadn't seen in earlier scenes in the movie. They were happy and they felt free. And after enduring an hour of stress and turmoil it was extremely cathartic to see them at peace for once. The 1:1 ratio made a reappearance soon after this scene but, now as an audience we were clued in to this method of visual storytelling and every aspect ratio change later in the film had a deeper meaning and was extremely impactful.

In conclusion, this movie made me cry. Like a lot. And somehow what used to be one of the most memed songs I knew became one with an intense emotional significance to me. And it seems to be a trend because there are other instances of this song making me cry in media. So yeah. Watch Mommy, stream "Wonderwall", and I'll see you in the next one.

227 views1 comment

1 comentário

09 de nov. de 2020

You are SUCH a film nerd, but that's why I love you.... Your grandma was, in some untaught way, just the same. In fact, I dare to say that this is a bond that you share, but that you will never get a chance to discuss.... I am so happy that you are enjoying life--as much as we can in a pandemic--and that watching and analyzing films are part of your making sense of all you like in the world. Go forth and prosper.

bottom of page