khoi97’s review published on Letterboxd:
7.7 - While messy and sluggish at times, Xavier Dolan's The Dead & Life of John F. Donovan is far from incompetent. In fact, there are plenty of redeeming qualities to this flawed personal feature.
Enjoyment: 4.3/5 | Quality: 3.4/5
John F. Donovan is not flawless, but you can tell that it is one that Xavier Dolan holds dearest to his heart. Spending about two years editing, Dolan puts a lot of care into this film, which is inspired by events in his own life, and the film shows that, but it does not always work. While there are some brilliant sequences that hold a lot of emotional weights, the rest of the film is not up to par with those moments. Even though the screenplay is not downright awful, it is quite choppy and incongruent; the lack of flow between the two main storylines is apparent. As for the performances, Jacob Tremblay shines the brightest, proving to the audience why is he a star on the rise ever since his breakout role in Room; Natalie Portman gives a solid performance as always. However, the weakest link here is Kit Harrington, who played the titular John F. Donovan. Despite his best effort, his performance seems pale and entry-level, lacking any real emotional depth for a role that is quite self-reflective with on-going internal conflicts. The soundtrack feels random, yet on-the-nose, lacking any nuance and subtlety. With a good sentiment that highlights the theme of growing up, suppressed homosexuality and fame, The Death & Life of John F. Donovan is a misunderstood film with a lot of potentials to be amazing.