Xavier Dolan’s Long-Awaited ‘The Death and Life of John F. Donovan’ to Premiere at TIFF 2018

     August 1, 2018


The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, the English-language debut of Mommy director Xavier Dolan, has been in the works for some time now. It was first announced back in December 2014, and has undergone numerous changes. Back in February we reported that Jessica Chastain had been cut from the film entirely with Dolan explaining:

What you need to hear from me is Jessica Chastain’s character, after what was a long period of reflection, had to be cut from the film. It was an extremely difficult decision to make. I feel, toward Jessica, a sincere love, and a great admiration. The decision was editorial and narrative, in that it has nothing to do with a performance, and everything to do with a character, and the compatibility of its storyline. This “villain” subplot, albeit funny and entertaining, didn’t feel like it belonged to the rest of the story, which ended up not being on heroes or their nemesis, but rather on childhood, and its dreams. There is, in this film, a conversation on show business, yes, but it was in the family dynamics – and, once again, in mothers and sons relationships – that the heart of this film resided.


Natalie Portman on The Death and Life of John F. Donovan set in London, England (Photo : Shayne Laverdière)

Now, after much anticipation, the film is finally set to premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Per TIFF, the plot is “about a young man’s calculated reassessment of his infamous, and ultimately disastrous, childhood correspondence with an American television star,” and it stars Kit Harington, Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Thandie Newton, Jacob Tremblay, and Ben Schnetzer.

I haven’t seen Dolan’s previous movies (something I plan to rectify before heading to TIFF), but this one sounds like it has a terrific premise, so I’m eager to see it finally arrive at the celebrated film festival.

The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6 – 16th.

Here’s the TIFF synopsis for The Death and Life of John F. Donovan:

The Death and Life of John F. Donovan follows the story of a young actor (Jacob Tremblay) as he reminisces on the letters he once shared with an American TV star (Kit Harington), who passed away a decade earlier, and the impact those letters had on both their lives. The film also stars Natalie Portman, Ben Schnetzer, Susan Sarandon, Jared Keeso, Kathy Bates, Thandie Newton, Emily Hampshire, and former TIFF Rising Star Sarah Gadon.

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