The all-star cast also includes Jacob Tremblay, Jessica Chastain, Kathy Bates, and Susan Sarandon...
After rising to prominence on the international scene with festival stunners like Tom at the Farm and the Cannes award-winner Mommy, celebrated filmmaker (and Adele music video director) Xavier Dolan — often affectionately dubbed French-Canadian cinema’s “enfant terrible” — assembled his most star-studded lineup yet for his upcoming drama The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, a first look at which he shared on social media earlier this week.
Dolan posted a series of haunting stills from the new project to Instagram on Thursday, teasing characters played by Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Jacob Tremblay, and Jessica Chastain — all of whom star in the film, which marks Dolan’s English-language debut.
According to Collider, the film took nearly a year and a half to shoot, and few of its A-list actors share scenes together. The official synopsis indicates the movie follows a young actor who, 10 years after the death of an American TV star (the titular character, played by Kit Harington, works on a CW-style teen drama called Hellsome High), reflects on the written correspondence he conducted with the fallen performer. Thandie Newton plays a journalist interviewing the next generation actor about his dealings with Donovan, and Tremblay co-stars as 11-year-old Rupert, a Hellsome High fan who writes letters to the show’s cast.
Despite the film’s broad scope that covers a wide range of characters across multiple time periods (Sarandon and Bates play Donovan’s mother and manager, respectively, while Chastain plays a ruthless gossip columnist and Portman portrays Rupert’s mother), Dolan found a way to zero in on his signature thematic material, i.e. the exploration of maternal bonds.
“When editing, [during a lengthier shooting break] it became clear that the heart of this film would be the mother-son relationships,” Dolan told Collider. “And you, know that realization didn’t bother me. I could spend the rest of my life talking about mothers and sons and still be making a completely different movie than the last.”
Scroll through the Instagram slideshows above for a full sneak peek at The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, which is expected to premiere on the fall festival circuit.