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I forgive you if you have never heard of Jean-Marc Vallée’s outstanding French/Canadian comedy/drama C.R.A.Z.Y.; after all, despite a highly successful film festival run in 2005, C.R.A.Z.Y. sadly never made it out of the gates here in the U.K. on its theatrical release and has since all but disappeared. However, this coming-of-age gem deserves your time and praise. C.R.A.Z.Y. is not only full of superb performances and a killer soundtrack, but it’s also a beautiful, engaging and sweeping tale of a family caught in the headlights of social change, secrets and sibling rivalry as we walk alongside the Beaulieu family from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s.
Born into the world on December 25th 1960, Zac Beaulieu (Marc-Andre Grondin) is the fourth son of Gervais and Laurianne, and right from birth, he never quite fits into his conservative family. As he grows into a young boy, this difference becomes more pronounced; his mother is convinced he has a God-given ability to heal others, while his father worries about his love of prams and dolls. But as Zac fights for his father’s attention in a family of five boys, his older brother Raymond becomes his biggest rival. At the same time, Zac is silently questioning his sexual orientation as he immerses himself in the music of Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. From teenager to young man, Zac hides his sexuality from his family while his older brother goes off the rails. But as the 1980s dawn, the family unit is tested like never before as long-held secrets bubble to the surface.
Throughout the film, Zac grapples with his sexual orientation, which sets him apart from his traditional family. Here the conservative environment and his father’s rigid expectations create tension and internal conflict within Zac, and while his older brother may be a competitor for his father’s love, in truth, both brothers are round pegs in a square hole. Zac yearns for acceptance and struggles to reconcile his desires with the societal norms surrounding him. Here, Vallée sensitively unpicks the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ young people as they discover their true selves in a society that rejects them.
The film’s title is symbolic, representing Zac’s unconventional nature and the chaotic world around him. The acronym C.R.A.Z.Y stands for the first initials of Zac and his four brothers, highlighting the complex dynamics within their family. Each sibling embodies different qualities, and their contrasting personalities create a rich tapestry of experiences that shape Zac’s journey.
Jean-Marc Vallée’s exquisite film is a sweeping yet tender journey through three decades, embracing and understanding that coming out can be a long, painful and challenging process in a family of patriarchal power and sibling rivalry. Here Marc-Andre Grondin is outstanding as the confused yet confident Zac, striving for acceptance while navigating belief, family and peer pressure. But it’s Vallée and Boulay’s screenplay that truly shines. C.R.A.Z.Y sizzles with humour, emotion and authenticity as it becomes something truly unique and compelling in the landscape of LGBTQ+ coming-of-age movies. While C.R.A.Z.Y carries elements of the classic coming-of-age comedy/drama, it is at its heart a humorous, tender and loving exploration of the complexities of family life. It’s a journey that takes us through three defining decades of music, culture and political change and talks to a generation who grew up on Bowie and the endogenous beauty of Mick Jagger and the Stones.
C.R.A.Z.Y is a story of family, fear, love, competition, hope and laughter, and one of the best LGBTQ+ films of the early noughties. It is a movie I always return to, and one that has never received the praise it so deserved.