Custody (2017)

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A hard-hitting drama starring Inglorious Basterds actor Denis Ménochet, Custody (French: Jusqu’à la garde) marks the feature film directorial debut of French filmmaker Xavier Legrand and has already received awards from Glasgow Film Festival 2018 and the 74th Venice International Film Festival.

The film follows Antoine (Ménochet) and Miriam (Léa Drucker) in the middle of a separation. Although the court grants Antoine visitation rights to their young son Julien (Thomas Gloria), the former’s frustration towards Miriam’s aversion towards him slowly builds to a terrifying climax.

From the outset, there is a certain level of tension and unease as the couple gives two different sides to their marriage and we are left guessing as to who is the injured party. Legrand’s direction and screenplay highlight the fact that there are two sides behind this custody battle, but the slow-building narrative makes it apparent that our initial empathy has been seriously misplaced. When events come to a head, the audience realises that the inevitable is going to happen, and it is nerve-wracking to watch.

Legrand’s ability as a storyteller enables Custody to come across as a natural drama by instilling a refreshing realism. His screenplay bravely explores the darker side of spousal separation, the use of children as weapons and domestic violence, all of which elevate this simple drama to something quite terrifying.

In a dominating performance, Ménochet’s infuriated Antoine struggles against the reluctance from his son and the stubbornness from his wife, who is portrayed by the equally compelling Léa Drucker. The standout performance is by young Thomas Gloria, who plays the reluctant Julien. Court-ordered to spend time with his father, he conveys an innocence and fear of aggravating his father while struggling to protect his mother and sister, highlighting the price of his parents’ separation.

Overall, Custody is compelling viewing. With a powerhouse performance from Ménochet, this psychological drama guarantees to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

Custody is out in UK cinemas on 13 April.

Director: Xavier Legrand
Stars: Denis Ménochet, Léa Drucker, Thomas Gloria
Runtime: 93 minutes
Country: France

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

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