Friday, March 9, 2018

Custody (2017) Rendez-vous With French Cinema 2018

Xavier Legrand‘s CUSTODY is uncomfortable. The look at the custody battle surrounding a dissolving marriage the film makes you want to get up and walk out of the theater and not watch.

Very early on you know this is not going to go well since it’s clear that the “loving father” isn’t. He wants to torment his ex and he doesn’t care who he hurts in the process…which is no different than the marriage. There is a reason his older daughter wants nothing to do with him. Sadly caught in the middle of it all is eleven year old Julien. It’s his well-being that that is the subject of the title and watching him twist under the games his father is playing is heart breaking.

That the film works as well as it does, is due largely to the work of the great cast. Denis Ménochet as the dad is truly frightening. As the film plummets into the final minutes he is so scary that we truly don’t know what is going to happen. Léa Druckeris spot on as the mom who is a woman fighting not only for herself but her children. Her pain and anguish matches the pain I’ve seen in the face of friends who’ve experienced similar nightmares. And then there is Thomas Gioria the child at the center of it all. He is truly amazing running through a wide range of emotions and nailing every last one. We believe he is trapped in a hell of his parents making. It’s a performance worthy of an Oscar and portends great things in the future from the young man.

As good as the cast and as taut is the tension the plotting doesn’t wholly surprise. There is a sense early on how this is going to go. While the sense of being trapped on a runaway train makes us sick through much of the proceedings it there is no real sense of surprise--that said the final fifteen minutes are impossibly tense since it’s the one moment where we really don’t know what is going to happen and (at the risk of being spoilery) who will walk away. It is an ending that will haunt you.

Minor reservation aside Custody is recommended.

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