C.R.A.Z.Y is a film by French-Canadian director Jean Marc Vallee who confides he likes to leave the theatre with, â€œa satisfying feeling of wanting to live, take a bite out of life, take action because I’ve regained, through a movie, that little spark of clarity that lets me see life the way it should always look to me: beautiful.â€ He has succeeded in making the very kind of film he values the most, one that is beautiful, magical, and sincerely touching. It’s an ambitious two-hour journey of discovery, focused through the eyes of Zachary Beaulieu, the second youngest of five very distinct sons born to Gervais (Michel Cote) and Laurianne (Danielle Proux). The opening scene introduces a sense of pre-ordained fate for Zachary, who is stillborn, revived, then clumsily dropped by his father. Yet he manages to survive physically unscathed save for a telling omen, a birthmark revealing a shock of white hair on the nape of the neck.
Through these devices we know from the outset that Zachary is “different’s from the other boys. He is neither a jock, nor a bookworm, nor a ‘rebel without a cause’ like his older siblings whom he introduces lovingly as “the idiots’. Instead he’ a sensitive bed-wetter with a penchant for cross-dressing and pushing his younger brother in the pram. From an early age he knows he is not acceptable to his much idolised father, particularly after Gervais notes the danger of him becoming a “fairy’. As a child he prays to god, wishing to be less “soft’, as an aetheist teen he mimics glam-rocker Bowie in front of his bedroom mirror and loses himself in the ecstasy of musical escape. Throughout the film we follow his denial of self, strategies for acceptance and negotiation of belonging, in a family, in a small suburban town that, despite its parochialism, has universal resonance for anyone growing up in the Western world during the shift from the 60s to the 80s.
Zachary (above) is teased by some kids on the street for prancing like a ‘poofta’ despite the fact that he probably would have fitted in perfectly with the stonking trend for adrogyny and all things glam in the 70s.
The sets and props are incredibly fun and true to the period they portray (lots of household retro kitch and the kooky concept of ‘ironed toast’) not to mention the drifting music-inspired fashion trends from wholesome stripey shirts of the 60’s, through to the tights and makeup spectacle of the 70’s, landing finally in the goth punk pierced era of the 80’s. I suppose the only thing that possibly lets this film down is the ending. It’s a long film that takes the time it needs to offer an in-depth charater study through a meandering narrative structure but it seems to end quite abruptly and loose ends are tied up ever-so neatly. Maybe that’s why I walked out of this film feeling happy and transported. But the critic in me curses for buying into the (emotionally) easy way out. It’s just a thought about a wonderful film, nonetheless.