Virtual CUSTODY

Xavier Legrand / Cert 15 / 92 mins / France (2017)

Showing Times

"Terror tactics and fury blaze in an electric debut." ★★★★★ Telegraph  "Without sensationalizing or cheapening the story, he [director Legrand] gives this closely observed drama the tension and urgency of a thriller." NY Times

Following a toxic divorce, Antoine's (Denis Ménochet) pursuit of joint custody of son Julien (Thomas Gioria) seems the act of a caring father.  As each parent makes their case to the judge, hospital administrator Antoine comes across as reasonable, patient, devoted, while his ex-wife Myriam (Léa Drucker) appears shifty and uncomfortable when the judge presses: if your husband was violent to you, why did you never file a complaint? The judge's decision - visitation rights to Antoine - appears correct, but after Antoine gains access, the mask begins to slip, until everyone is in jeopardy.

Writer/director Legrand created quite a stir with this first feature, which won Best Director (Debut) at Venice in 2016.  It comes as no surprise that he cites the influence of Greek tragedies, Kramer vs Kramer and The Shining, as well as his extensive researches into the high rate of domestic violence in France.  Scenes are left long and shot unshowily, and the establishing sequences owe much to social realist traditions, all of which gives the ensuing unravelling all the more impact.  Says Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian:  "The effect is wrenching. For all its stripped-bare economy and unsentimentality, this is one of the most emotionally devastating cinema experiences of the past year."

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