Xavier Dolan Reprimands Netflix for Altering Aspect Ratio of Mommy


Over the past few years, Netflix has come under fire for occasionally changing the aspect ratio of the movies and TV shows that they offer via their streaming service. Although they claim that most of these instances are accidental and that they are working to fix them, the problem continues to persist. Now this week one of the affected filmmakers has decided to take a stand. Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s acclaimed film Mommy was added to Netflix UK last month, but the unusual 1:1 aspect ratio was apparently locked to fit a 16:9 screen. That’s a problem because the aspect ratio changes during two key moments in the movie, which doesn’t happen on the Netflix version. Dolan was none too pleased and posted the following open letter to social media:

Netflix has since responded and claims to be working on fixing the issue. However, it seems odd that a filmmaker is required to complain in order to get their work shown as it was originally intended. The assumption here is that Netflix is catering to the lowest common denominator, preferring to quietly alter aspect ratios while hoping no one notices as opposed to pissing off the masses who simply don’t want to see black bars on their TV screens. Considering that Netflix is slowly becoming a primary gatekeeper for movies and TV shows, shouldn’t they have some sort of responsibility to ensure that the presentation matches the original vision of the creators? What do you think? Do you have a problem with Netflix tinkering with the aspect ratios of movies?

  • It was probably just a technical error but you gotta love his youthful anger. I know Netflix has a bad history of cropping movies but that seemed to be more of mistake by distributors.
    Btw, have you ever talked about Xavier Dolan’ movies on the show or is there some sort of rivalry between you and French Canadians (I know there is when it comes to Blu-ray spines)?

  • Isildur_of_Numenor

    Those two scenes (when the aspect ratio widens and then contracts back) are really powerful moments, and the changes in aspect ratio are a big part of their emotional impact. Take that away and the viewing experience is greatly affected. It would suck to watch it for the first time the way Netflix showed it. Frank’s experience of that first time watch would be forever ruined.

  • Tommy

    The only “technical error” would be that they just automatically get rid of black areas without consideration, which is horrible in and of it’s self.

  • I think you misread the problem in Dolan’s statement (actually I think Sean got it wrong, too). They didn’t stretch the image to fit a 16:9 screen but they permantly kept the movie’s 1:1 aspect ratio, which made it impossible for two scenes to open up.

  • Sean

    That makes more sense. I was wondering how they could crop or stretch a 1:1 aspect ratio without people noticing and complaining about that. I’ll update the post.

  • Sean

    No rivalry, we just never got around to it I guess. We do tend to gravitate towards more mainstream stuff, at least for the main reviews. Mommy has been on my watchlist for quite a while now but maybe I’ll check it out now that it’s on Netflix.

  • If that’s the case then I don’t see how someone could think it’s some deliberate ploy to pander to the masses. I can’t imagine why anyone would knowingly force a 1:1 aspect ratio when there are scenes that are wider. If it’s truly just an oversight it definitely makes the director seem petty.

    Either way it is a pretty great movie, I’d be curious to hear one of you guys talk about it.

  • Tommy

    To make sure, anyone tuned in to it on UK Netflix? If that’s true, I bet they use Handbrake. That crops black off as a default. I’ve had to tell it not to before for some aspect ratio switching movie.