It is a film that spans the years and explores the complex relationship between a man and a woman. When described that way, it may sound a little different but, in truth, not all too original. What makes the seemingly simple story of Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways more unique — and far, far more complex — is that the man wants to become a woman. It sounds easy to write the film off as a predictable cliche but it’s not so much about sex change as the relationship between two people as time passes.
Set in Montreal, Canada in the 1980s, Laurence Anyways focuses on Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) and his girlfriend Fred (Suzanne Clément). He is a writer and a well-liked high school English teacher. She works on film sets. The duo are well matched; both are quirky, strong, passionate, stubborn and eccentric. Their relationship seems perfect and wonderfully romantic until Laurence drops a bomb. He tells Fred he wants to be a woman. Obviously, this road bump changes things for them as a couple as well as individuals. Fred works to come to terms with and embrace Laurence’s decision. Laurence, meanwhile, has to deal with the response from his friends, family and even people on the street as he approaches his own definition of happiness. The film follows their lives, the continually changing nature of their relationship and their choices over the next decade.
Wonderfully acted, full of energy and beautifully shot, Laurence Anyways is the kind of film that does not come around often enough. While it is lengthy with a running time of nearly three hours, filmmaker Dolan uses every minute and every second. Being able to watch Laurence and Fred, whose masculine nickname seems ironic, as they progress, change and adapt over time is fascinating. Laurence Anyways is a film worth seeing.