The Death and Life of John F. Donovan


The line to get into the press and industry screening of Xavier Dolan’s latest film The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, premiering at TIFF as a special presentation, wasn’t short. But to say whether critics were lining up out of genuine interest in the Quebecois filmmaker’s work or to satisfy their morbid curiosity is difficult. His past features, while gaining him awards at major festivals such as Cannes, have been divisive, and the production of this new film has been infamously difficult, with Dolan himself declaring on Instagram that all the scenes he had shot with Jessica Chastain would remain on the cutting room floor. In the past, his films have all had an epic quality to them, from their hyper evocative style made of pop music cues, slow-motion and extreme close-ups to their increasingly large and starry ensemble casts (It’s Only the End of the World has Gaspard Ulliel acting alongside Lea Seydoux, Vincent Cassel and Marion Cotillard). But The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, with all the mystery surrounding its production and illustrious international actors, promised to be Dolan’s biggest yet.