C.R.A.Z.Y. Review

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Montreal, Christmas Day, 1960. The Beaulieu family welcomes a new addition: Zachary (Émile Vallée/Grondin). One of five sons, Zac initially enjoys a close relationship with his father (Coté). But as he grows up he struggles to cope with an adolescence tha

★★★★

Jean-Marc Vallée’s bold coming-of-age drama — winner of the audience award at Toronto — treads familiar ground, yet an irreverent, often caustic humour and deep compassion prevent his film from descending into soap, or the tired tropes of teen angst we’ve seen so many times before.

Anchored by great performances from Marc-Andre Grondin as the sexually confused, rebellious Zac, and Michael Coté as his traditional, Patsy Cline-loving father finding it ever more difficult to understand his beloved son, Vallée and co-screenwriter François Boulay take time to flesh out even the smallest supporting characters and sub-plots, giving the impressive cast rich material with which to play.

As context the director offers a seductively nostalgic portrait of the ’70s, splashing the screen with warm reds and oranges and stacking Zac’s record player with David Bowie and the Rolling Stones LPs, their sexual ambiguity offering the boy some kind of solace and validation in the face of the restrictive, prescriptive Catholic atmosphere in which he’s been raised.

At times it’s an ugly watch — Vallée doesn’t balk at the plain nastiness that can arise in even the most loving families — yet C.R.A.Z.Y. emerges as a warm, thoughtful vignette that offers a refreshing new take on problems as old as the human race.

Fantastic performances, sharp wit and a raw honesty breathe new life into the rites-of-passage drama.