Xavier Dolan

“Stop comparing me to kids my age!” shouts Xavier Dolan’s character, Hubert, in the new film I Killed My Mother. “I’m not like them!” The same could be same of Dolan himself. The Quebec native, who only recently turned 21, doesn’t just star in the French-language psychodrama—he also wrote, directed, and produced it; painted set walls; and even functioned as an impromptu tailor. Dolan partially funded the film using money he had earned as a child actor (he appeared on a number of Canadian TV shows), but he had to learn all other on-set responsibilities on the job. “I really believe in having control over my art,” he explains. “When you have something in your mind, it is such a pain to be disappointed.” What Dolan had in mind for I Killed My Mother was a semiautobiographical account of his own turbulent relationship with his real-life mother. Dolan’s Hubert is a tortured teenager whose mother, played with a mixture of exasperation and obliviousness by Canadian vet Anne Dorval, is his principal source of anguish. When the two characters appear on camera together, Cassavetes-style screaming matches ensue; between those scenes, Hubert complains bitterly about her to his boyfriend, to a sympathetic teacher, and to anyone else who’ll listen. As a director, Dolan says he felt no hesitation in telling his actors what to do, despite his lack of experience. “I’m not afraid of asking for what I want,” he says. “Do I sound like some sort of totalitarian dictator for saying that?” Dolan’s exactitude has served him well: I Killed My Mother earned an eight-minute standing ovation last year at Cannes and has opened other doors. Dolan has two equally fraught full-length features in the works—one about a love triangle and the other about a transsexual. “I guess I worship hysteria,” he says.