It’s Only the End of the World Cannes review: the festival’s largest disappointment so far

At the grand age of 27, Xavier Dolan has finally made a poor film

It's Only the End of The World
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Director: Xavier Dolan
Cert: Club
Genre: Drama
Starring: Gaspard Ulliel, Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux, Vincent Cassel
Running Time: 0 hr 0 mins

The Québécois director Xavier Dolan, still an implausible 27, has, to this point, had the sort of career that invites the word "charmed". This is his fourth film to play at Cannes and his last, the wonderful Mommy, took home the 2014 Jury Prize.

What do they say about “All good things”? He finally comes a cropper with a picture that seems more a collection of bellowing talking heads than a functioning drama. Fans of the director will know to expect delicious visuals, extravagant use of music and stirring histrionics. The utter lack of focus is an unwelcome addition to the arsenal.

It's Only the End of the World was, apparently, adapted from a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce. This scarcely seems possible. Far from being "well-made", the script plays as if compiled by transcribing random arguments by passing strangers in a railway station. Gaspard Ulliel star as Louis, a gay writer travelling home with news of his impending death. There wouldn't be a film if everyone got on. Sure enough, despite their implausible pulchritude, each family member is desperately upset about something. Antoine (Vincent Cassel) growls and scowls like a man who has just stood on a rusty nail. Suzanne (Lea Seydoux) is more of a moper than a shouter. The utterly fabulous materfamilias (Nathalie Baye) seems almost like a parody of the overpowering mothers who tower over so many Dolan films.

Then there is Antoine's wife Catherine. If I am reading this right, the unconvincing stammers and cast-down eyes suggest that the character is supposed to be "mousy". She is the repressed outsider who, hiding quietly in the corner, knows more than those deeper within the battles. Marion Cotillard (who once played Edith Piaf, remember) could hardly look less comfortable in the role if she had been asked to play it in snowshoes.


The voluptuousness of the images and the playful editing – one long scene takes place almost entirely in head shots – demonstrate that the Dolan aesthetic is still firmly in place. It is, however, used to no comprehensible end here. The biggest disappointment so far of Cannes 2016.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist