As psychological thrillers go, Tom at the Farm is a notch above average. It’s got a plot I haven’t seen before: Tom (Xavier Dolan, also the director) schleps from Montreal to rural Quebec for the funeral of his dead boyfriend, Guillaume, who grew up in the French Canadian equivalent of a hick town. Big shock: Guillaume didn’t tell his mother (Lise Roy) he was gay, a secret his dark and sexy but tres psycho older brother, Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), aggressively guards. After the funeral and some mixed signals from Francis, Tom is pulled into farm life with his new “family”– and a bizarre sexless S&M relationship with Francis that creates a major sense of foreboding danger.
Tom at the Farm does a nice job building up suspense, and the homoerotic overtones add to the tension. The problem is, the story isn’t believable, even for a thriller. Maybe that’s because the characters’ motivations aren’t adequately explained; it feels like something was left out. Worse, the slow and steady buildup between Tom and Francis doesn’t lead anywhere; despite all the tension– sexual and otherwise– it fizzles like a dud firecracker. We leave with no sense of what either character is about or what makes him tick, and only a vague notion of what their whole thing is about. A film with such potential that ultimately fails to deliver leaves one with the frustrating and disappointing cinematic equivalent of blue balls.
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