"Tom at the Farm": A Psychological Mayhem | 2 or 3 Things I Know About Film >> Film Film reviews, essays, analysis and more Film | 2 or 3 Things I Know About Film >> Film Film reviews, essays, analysis and more
“Tom at the Farm”: A Psychological Mayhem


Just as every film before, I continue to be surprised by every Xavier Dolan film I see. Tom at the Farm is yet another film in the 2010s latest wave of horror, sitting comfortably in that canon while existing within the auteur confides of Dolan's filmography. Not since Lars von Trier's Dogville has a film so inexplicably made vicious underlinings of sociopolitical bruises between the United States and her sister countries - but that's only one little apple in a basket full of allegorical ideas. Tom at the Farm may be filled with many ideas, but I'd be damned if they don't all function together into psychological mayhem.

Dolan opens the film with a standard genre trope: our protagonist experiencing his virginal experience in an empty rural farmhouse. He peers through the dark screen door, the camera bounces behind his head as he searches around the place, and when he goes in - the decor feels so tidy in its presentation of rural bliss that it comes off uncomfortable. But these events are scored through a very Bernard Hermann-influenced score that pulsates louder than anything else on the soundtrack - making such a trivially quiet moment feel overbearing in its presentation; especially following a sequence of travel set to the harrowing vocals of a pop song (a Dolan trademark).

Tom at the FarmCREDIT: SOURCE

Tom at the Farm is one of those films that many will argue against being horror. But the emotional realms in which it goes - and the self-aware cinematic approach - present us an absolutely terrifying representation of post-mourning, longing, and confusion; and we’re presented with an antagonist of such ambiguity and unpredictability that we can’t help but feel frustrated with Tom’s plight into a Stockholm-like self-destruction throughout such a period of vulnerability that has surprised him.



Tom at the FarmCREDIT: SOURCE

There are moments where, as in Dolan’s Mommy a year later, the director plays with aspect ratio. It’s not necessary in its use, at first, within Tom at the Farm, but it still enables the viewer to feel claustrophobia in scenes that are mostly just stressful. Style over substance, but it enhances that substance that is there. Its an extra layer of self-aware on top of the film’s many uses of hyperbolic horror conventions. There’s one sequence, for example, where a character is shown in immense close-up as he’s scrubbing cow’s blood from his hands. He’s distraught, he’s terrified, and he has very apparent gashes across his wrists from a scene prior. It’s incredibly disturbing, but the revelation of what happened feels much more violating. You let out a breath, until Dolan utilizes the revelation for later impact.

Tom at the FarmCREDIT: SOURCE

Another sequence that feels unconventional in its horror, but terrifies nonetheless, is a moment where two characters tango in a barn. It’s lit with in amber tint, and the dance is very reminiscent of a scene in 2004’s Shall We Dance? - in fact, almost edited the same way. Which is interesting when looked at for the kind of American romantic comedy (and remake) of the summer that didn’t make an impact financially nor critically. But recalling the scene -