The concept of two friends turning romantic isn't something new. Some of our most famous rom-coms are exactly that. Yet, it is rare to see this concept used outside of heterosexual relationships. Matthias & Maxime, the newest film from acclaimed director Xavier Dolan, fixes that.
The story begins by showing us two close friends, Matthias and Maxime. They've been friends since grade school, and come from totally different lives. Matthias is a work driven man with a girlfriend, on his way to new heights in his law career. Maxime comes from an abusive home, taking care of his former addict mother and making sure she stays sober. Maxime later decides to leave everything behind and move to Australia for a new start. Things get complicated for the two friends when they agree to do a short film in which they kiss, leaving both with confused feelings and a limited time to figure out those feelings out.
In this bold French language film, Dolan acts as director, writer and star in the role of Maxime. That alone is impressive, but even more so is his command on the story. From the directors chair, Dolan has successfully crafted a beautiful story of friendship and its evolutions. Dolan uses beautiful color schemes to add to the mystery of love in the air, and the environment is rich with detail. Dolan successfully executes the story from page to screen in a way that feels completely authentic and realistic.
As a performer, Dolan is equally skilled. His performance as Maxime is both powerful and empathetic. Maxime tends to be the quieter one of this dynamic, but Dolan is able to say so much with so little. Gabriel D'Almeida Freitas stars as Matthias, and propels much of the narrative forward with a sharp performance that reflects both his ambition in his career and his newfound confusion over Maxime.
Perhaps what I loved most about Dolan's take on this film is that he doesn't waste time on labeling the sexuality of his two leads. Neither one ever is labeled gay or bisexual, as that isn't Dolan's focus. His focus is specifically on the nature of the relationship, and where it may or may not go. The question isn't if the two characters are gay--rather, it is whether they want to be friends or lovers.
That question doesn't get the clearest of answers, but Dolan doesn't leave his audience empty handed. The ending is open to more than one interpretation, but all are optimistic. Dolan seems clear that no matter if they are romantic or platonic, the characters need each other. It's a beautiful message, one that isn't often seen outside of heterosexual relationships. The story is taken with such a tender and careful approach that Dolan further proves he's on his way to being a master behind the camera.
Outside of this particular film, Xavier Dolan remains a director to be celebrated. As a gay man, Dolan has told many LGBTQ+ stories and remains true to both himself and his community in almost everything he does. His filmography remains unapologetically queer. His work continues to take bold swings, and explore new depths of sexuality. He is definitely someone worth exploring, especially during Pride.
Overall, Matthias & Maxime doesn't reinvent this romantic concept. But it also doesn't need to. Dolan weaves a story of love, friendship, and life that is both realistic and bittersweet. The film is nuanced and sensual in a way we don't get to see often with LGBTQ characters. It's a film that we can celebrate.