Review / ‘Custody’ (M) *** and a half

MEET the Besson family. Myriam (Lea Drucker) and Antoine (Denis Menochet) are stating their cases before a mediator.

Which of them shall have custody of their 11-year-old son Julien (Thomas Gioria)?

In writer/director Xavier Legrand’s taut, intense drama, Myriam has taken Julien away from the home here the family used to live. She has had more than enough of Antoine’s mercurial temperament and propensity to violence. At the hearing, the bruises on her face testify what she has endured. Julien is terrified of him.

The mediator’s decision is for joint custody. From that point, the film follows father and son along an increasingly rocky path.

Myriam and Julien move to a new neighbourhood to avoid Antoine, who wants also to have contact with Julien’s older sister at her 18th birthday party. She doesn’t want Antoine to attend. Antoine wants to give her a gift. The party continues while Myriam and Julien quietly sneak away. In the small hours, Antoine arrives toting a shotgun. What follows is a taut and tense confrontation that merits admiration for its staging as much as for its content.

“Custody” explores an interesting corner of the lower level of French middle-class society and its daily life while delivering a discomfiting drama. Some may find its tensions, conflicts, anxieties and fears somewhat uncomfortable to endure from the comfort of a cinema chair but its final quarter-hour more than adequately compensates.

At Palace Electric

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