Laurence Anyways is a strange yet passionate and enthralling tale of a couple once happy together now driven apart by one man’s decision to become female. Laurence reveals to his girlfriend Fred that he was “born to be a woman” and has waited over thirty years to become one; it is his destiny. After much consideration, she agrees to stick with him no matter what, yet when the consequences include him losing his job and getting into fights on the street, their love is tested to the ultimate limit.
It is a rare spectacle indeed when the balance between style and substance is fulfilled to its full potential within a movie, yet Laurence Anyways is that rare spectacle. The opening scene serves as a fantastic hook. We never see Laurence’s face as he walks down the street dressed as a woman; his transformation complete, smoke billowing all round the frame. The scene has echoes of the western; as Laurence strolls briskly down the lane, shop owners and passers by alike gaze from shop windows in awe and wonder just as they would in any Clint Eastwood movie.
The acting is also fantastic; it is clear that although the style is of pivotal importance and scenes continue to visually impress throughout, this is first and foremost a drama. Quite frankly I do not think Melvil and Suzanne could have done a better job; Suzanne especially I was impressed with. A pivotal diner scene begins with an endless barrage of questions from an elderly waitress. The couple are just trying to have a meaningful conversation and be left alone when Fred explodes, throwing her meal onto the floor and smashing glasses with her hands. She screams at the woman to just leave them alone and wishes they could just live an ordinary existence. “Have you ever had to buy your husband a wig, or have to live with the fear of him coming home beaten up?” she screams at her, and reveals that this extradition of feeling is not for Laurence’s defence, it is for herself. For him she has made the ultimate sacrifice, but she can’t handle it anymore, and shortly afterwards she leaves him.
These moments of pure emotion are just as powerful, if not more so than the immense visuals. A walk down a street in the infamous Isle of Black as multi-coloured scarves of red, green, blue and every other colour imaginable fall gently from the sky amidst snowy fields may indeed be visually stunning, yet the soul destroying argument between a couple whom at the start was so strong, and so happy together is just heart breaking.
However, Laurence isn’t without its fault. About an hour and a half in I was thoroughly satisfied that it could indeed be one of my favourite films of all time, yet at over two and a half hours, it drags on for far too long. Although the visuals and quality acting keep our attention, no film should end with a relieved sigh from the audience who have been wishing it so for the past half hour. There came a point where I was willing it to end; as not to drop further in my estimations. If not for the pacing errors this could truly be a classic.
Laurence Anyways is a triumph that could have been a masterpiece. 4/5
Review by LiveWire Young Film Critic, Paddy Johnson (October ’12)