A decade after the death of an American TV star, a young actor reminisces about the written correspondence he once shared with the former, as well as the impact those letters had on both their lives.
Perhaps best known as the film that Jessica Chastain’s role was cut from, Xavier Dolan’s upcoming drama is still plenty star-studded, featuring a cast that includes Natalie Portman, Jacob Tremblay, Thandie Newton, Susan Sarandon, and Kit Harington. Though little is truly known about the project — only a single 17-second teaser trailer has been released — it’s described as a reminiscence on the life and death of an American TV star (Kit Harington), as told through his then 11-year-old pen pal (Jacob Tremblay)
You can see Xavier Dolan reaching for something grand with this film, a bigger story than he has ever attempted before and even more romantic questions of identity and self, but while one of the problems of 'The Death and Life of John F. Donovan' is that there are too many questions being asked, it doesn't mean that any of them aren't worth asking. This is still a Xavier Dolan film, and for all the right reasons, even down to his continuing dissection of the complex relationships between mothers and sons, and when he has sure footing, his flashes of spectacle in this film are really wonderful. He also connects so beautifully with his cast, with almost all of them in perfect step with him. This isn't a hidden masterpiece, but it also is nowhere near a disaster. It's an arresting misstep from a deeply passionate filmmaker who cares about every frame, who is trying for something genuine and honest, and yes, he chooses the framework of the privileged and the white, but these are (for all their problems) our modern mythical figures. To Rupert, John is a god, a superhero, an ideal to reach for, and the ultimate understanding of the film is that it is far more important to be human than iconic. In many ways, through his journey to discover that for himself, this is the gift that John gives Rupert in his letters. 'The Death and Life of John F. Donovan' will be a curiosity in the (hopefully long) career of this gifted filmmaker, and to be honest, a failed curiosity from Xavier Dolan is still a film worth every second. - Daniel Lammin Read Daniel's full article... https://www.maketheswitch.com.au/article/review-the-death-and-life-of-john-f-donovan-xavier-dolans-flawed-but-fascinating-english-language-debut