Elephant Song: Slow, Plodding, and Forgettable

Elephant Song. Xavier Dolan and Bruce Greenwood. Elephant Song. Xavier Dolan and Bruce Greenwood.

Charles Binamé’s latest movie Elephant Song stars Xavier Dolan as a troubled psychiatrist patient, Michael Aleen, with a dark past. One of the hospital’s doctors, Toby Green (Bruce Greenwood), is asked to supervise and question Aleen about the sudden disappearance of his colleague, Dr. Lawrence (Colm Feore). Aleen happened to be the last one to see any traces of him.

Throughout the film, Dr. Green is warned about Michael’s behaviour. He is told that it will not be easy to get information from him concerning his last session with Dr. Lawrence because he is manipulative. Michael likes to play games – mind games – and he also has an odd obsession with elephants. He admits knowing where Dr. Lawrence is and agrees to help Dr. Green find him, under three conditions: Dr. Green must not read Aleen’s personal file; he expects chocolate – a lot of it; and Mrs. Peterson (Catherine Keener), one nurse who happens to be Dr. Green’s ex-wife, must stay out of their game. Dr. Green agrees.

The rest of the film’s narrative unravels itself with a lack of suspense. Until the ending was revealed, I anticipated a mouth-dropping finale but was left disappointed with the simplicity of the ending. Do they find Dr. Lawrence? Does Michael Aleen cooperate? It is up to you to find out, but as someone who enjoys thrillers and psychological films, I expected more challenges and a bigger mystery to solve.

Elephant Song is based on a play of the same name by Canadian writer Nicolas Billon. After having watched the film, the lack of action and simplicity of the story makes me question if it were necessary to turn it into a film. There are few actors and most of the film focuses on the dialogues between the doctor and his patient. Sure, the actors played their parts well and it was exciting to see someone as successful as Xavier Dolan playing a twisted character and pulling it off in front of the camera. However, the film did not leave me with strong feelings or any excitement. It felt dull and quiet.

Elephant Song opened February 20.

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