A Kiss

Amos Lassen

Matthias and Maxime have been best friends since childhood and work out together in a Montreal gym. Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas) is an up-and-coming lawyer, living a happy yuppie lifestyle with his girlfriend (Marilyn Castonguay). Maxime (director Xavier Dolan) is a bartender who works at a dive bar and thinking about moving to Australia. They seem to be content with one another despite their differences. When they are away for the weekend with a group of friends, they are talked into starring in an on-screen make-out session for a student film and feelings in both of them are revealed.

Maxime feels like a fetish object for Matthias, whose uptight personality— he is uncomfortable with anything that impinges on his manhood, and balks at Erika’s (Camille Felton) request to star in her film. Maxime tries to cool him down by reminding him that they might  kissed once a long time ago. Following that fateful night at the lake house, Dolan cross-cuts between the friends’ day-to-day activities in an attempt to show the gap in social class between them.

Matthias and Maxime are good-looking, but there’s little chemistry between them. They’re kept apart for long stretches with no real tension in that absence. For some reason, I felt a barrier between us and the characters.

Dolan shows his objectification of desire, the emotional and sensual effects of people and their words but I got the feeling that he is concerned with making women seem like abject beings. The script is filled with natural banter and cliché references between the core group of five male friends. We hear the old nicknames, the grudges, and the alliances within the group so quickly that we feel we are part of the group.

Dolan avoids the classic obstacles for an onscreen queer relationship. The biggest problem raised by the pair’s new romance is how it will affect their friendship and Max’s plans to emigrate to Australia. Matthias struggles the most with his new feelings, with a girlfriend providing one more thing for him to feel guilty about. His internal torment is seen as quite weak.  His reactions make it unclear whether he’s ashamed of being gay or just too awkward and emotionally closed to express how he feels.

The script shows this intersection between liberal masculinity and queer identity as it teases with the ensemble’s sexual insecurities. When the  bet forces the apparently straight Matthias to agree to take part in a film with his old school friend Maxime, we know where this is heading right yet Dolan keeps the two characters apart successfully and amusingly.

There are lots of laughs and clever dialogue, some of which is quite harsh  as well as sweet and poignant. Dolan wonderfully captures the spirit of restless youth. Max is gay and has been secretly in love with Matt for years, and although his friend was straight, some part of that filming stirred up thoughts that have been unexplored between the two for years.

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