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The Death & Life of John F. Donovan

✭   Read critic reviews

Canada, United Kingdom

2019

Rated R • 2h 7m

Director Xavier Dolan

Starring Kit Harington, Jacob Tremblay, Natalie Portman, Ben Schnetzer

Genre Drama

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When an American TV star's correspondence with an 11-year-old actor is exposed, his reputation is dragged through the dirt, and his career and legacy are put in jeopardy. After his death, the young actor reflects on the impact their relationship had on his life.

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WHAT ARE CRITICS SAYING?

33

The Film Stage by

A baffling exercise in taking real issues and genuine emotional experiences and (seemingly due to some misplaced anxiety) deploying them in service of pure vanity.
20

The Guardian by Benjamin Lee

None of it rings remotely true and his insistence on playing out so many scenes at such a high level can make it an excruciating watch.
42

IndieWire by Eric Kohn

A shocking misfire that nevertheless demonstrates the sheer confidence in his storytelling that Dolan has cultivated over a decade of movies. It’s the only possible explanation for this baffling ensemble piece, a campy (if at times inspired) burst of melodrama and ludicrous scenarios caving into each other in a spectacular mash of half-baked ideas.
42

The Playlist by Jason Bailey

Every time Dolan generates a head of steam, he’s betrayed by his script, by the self-conscious formality of the dialogue, or the clunkiness of the structure.
30

Variety by Peter Debruge

What could have been a powerful ode to the impact that movies have in shaping our identities — and by extension, the reason broken people are drawn to the profession, through which they hope to reach others like themselves — becomes an over-the-top celebration of Dolan himself.
30

The Hollywood Reporter by Stephen Dalton

Dolan has labored hard to yoke together these tricksy, time-jumping, intertwined plots, reportedly editing down a mountain of material over two years. In the process, a whole character played by Jessica Chastain was surgically removed. But however long he tinkered, Dolan has not quite salvaged a story whose default setting seems to be mirthless, ponderous navel-gazing.

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