Zachary Beaulieu (Marc-Andre Grondin) has never liked Christmas much, because he was born on Christmas Day, which meant he only ever got one set of presents and never felt that it was his special time as he had to share it with Jesus Christ. His mother (Danielle Proulx), on the other hand, was delighted and took it to mean that her son, the youngest of four, was somehow sainted and carried a gift of healing, despite her music fan husband (Michel Côté) wishing that he would display a talent for music and buying him instruments for his birthday accordingly. Yet Zachary was never one to fit in...
This heartfelt family drama was scripted by the director, Jean-Marc Vallée, and his co-writer François Boulay whose early life this was based on, but if anything it became known for the trouble it had with the song rights which ate into a substantial part of the budget. Vallée persevered, however, and ensured that we did indeed hear Patsy Cline, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Giorgio Moroder on the soundtrack at crucial moments, and this went some way to giving C.R.A.Z.Y. authenticity to the periods it was set in, starting in the sixties and lasting through to the eighties.
We're in coming of age territory once again, and Vallée weaves a rich tapestry of emotion and events which can grow overwhelming after a while, but lends the film its particular character. Music is important in Zachary's life, as it is in his father's, and you would think that would provide a bond between them, yet as Zac points out, after about the age of six his father became his enemy. First this was because he was denied a pram to play with when little, and offered an unwanted hockey game instead, but this is merely the start of his sexuality clashing with his father's.
It takes until the seventies for this situation to come to a head, but meantime we see that Zac thinks his brothers are morons, ranging from one who reads everything he can get his eyes on, to a sports fanatic, to Raymond (Pierre-Luc Brillant), who he believes is his nemesis. Raymond will grow up to be a drug addicted wastrel, but it's a mark of how strong family ties are that nobody, not even Zac who despises his older brother, gives up on him. This is significant because the Beaulieus see Zac's emerging homosexuality as more problematic than Raymond's addiction.
Zachary's mother never loses faith in him, still believing him to be religiously important, and there is a thread of spirituality running through C.R.A.Z.Y. which near the end eschews the earlier, jokier treatment of the protagonist in church and literally saves him from a crisis, leaving you wondering how seriously we're supposed to take Catholicism or religion as a whole as portrayed here. There are certainly funny lines to enjoy, but there's an earnestness to the film which can inadvertantly show homosexuality to be a massive inconvenience, especially when Vallée is so sympathetic to every character, even the bigoted ones. Fortunately, while there are parts intended to have you musing on anything from the power of popular music to those tests for the family, the film stays lively and engaging, with a trite but reassuring ending after the pain the characters have gone through.