review for Léolo on AllMovie

Léolo (1993)
by Craig Butler review

Léolo is a unique, often unsettling but just as often fascinating viewing experience. It's not for everyone, for many will be deeply disturbed by its story of a small boy whose home life has him heading inexorably toward madness; others will find writer/director Jean-Claude Lauzon's technique off-putting. But those who can stay with the story and appreciate Lauzon's style will be richly rewarded by this film that seems both strangely familiar and utterly alien; indeed, at times it's as if Lauzon has held a distorting funhouse mirror up to the genre of coming-of-age stories, showing us a reflection which mixes the sentiment and the excitement associated with such stories and creates a new concoction that is both uplifting and crushing. It also is visually quite beautiful; Lauzon's compositions are frequently stunning, and the play of color, light, and shadow is often intoxicating. Indeed, it's possible that no one has captured a blinding whiteness on film quite as successfully as Lauzon does here. Léolo has its flaws: it is perhaps a trifle too episodic, and some segments may strike viewers as perhaps too tangential (although that is open to debate). But Lauzon's intensely personal vision, as well as the superb work he gets from a cast of both newcomers (such as the sensational Maxime Collin in the title role) and seasoned professionals, ultimately overcome any flaws.