XAVIER DOLAN’S DEATH AND LIFE OF JOHN F. DONOVAN FINALLY IN CANADIAN THEATRES

With a $35-million budget and a cast including Game of Thrones star Kit Harington, Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Thandie Newton, young Canadian actor Jacob Tremblay and, originally,

Actors Emily Hampshire, left to right, Thandie Newton, filmmaker Xavier Dolan and actors Kit Harington and Sarah Gadon from the film The Death and Life of John F. Donovan pose for a portrait during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9, 2018 in Toronto. GARETH CATTERMOLE / GETTY IMAGES

Well, here we are. Xavier Dolan’s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan is finally being released on Canadian screens Friday.

It has been a long and bumpy road for the Quebec director’s star-studded English-language debut — a movie that seemed to have all the makings of an American breakthrough that could pave the way from his favourite film festival, Cannes (where six of his eight features have premièred), to the Oscars.

With a $35-million budget and a cast including Game of Thrones star Kit Harington, Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Thandie Newton, young Canadian actor Jacob Tremblay and, originally, Jessica Chastain — whose part ended up on the cutting–room floor (more on that in a moment) — the project sounded like a Dolan dream come true.

And that was perhaps where the problems began. Pressure is hard to quantify, but for a kinetic director like Dolan, the weight of his great ambition and the project’s vast potential seemed to slow him down from the get-go.

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