Tu seras mon fils (You Will Be My Son) (4 stars)

Tu seras mon fils (You Will Be My Son)

A classy French family drama starring Niels Arestrup

This lush family drama builds tension as efficiently and cruelly as a thriller, but ballasts it with an undertow of deeply-felt emotion. The cast is also excellent: selected with a rigorous attention to the nuances of their roles, and hugely committed in their performances. Anyone who’s seen A Prophet or The Beat That My Heart Skipped knows that Niels Arestrup is a back-up actor to be reckoned with, but here he dominates the piece, and is used to truly dynamic effect.

He plays ageing wine mogul Paul who, when his business partner François falls terminally ill, must find a new partner. The obvious contender is his keen and hardworking son Martin (Lorant Deutsch), but Paul has always held Martin in open contempt, for reasons that are shrouded in mystery and familial repression. So when François’ dashing and successful winemaker son Philippe (Nicolas Bridet) drops over from California to visit his sick dad, Paul is provided with a ready-made replacement son and heir - and he makes no secret of his partiality. The scene is set for a Shakespearean struggle for money, territory and parental affection - one that’s further complicated by a quirk of French law which allows anyone to be ‘adopted’ for inheritance purposes, even if they have living parents, and even if there’s an existing biological line of succession.

Writer/director Gilles Legrand and his co-screenwriter Delphine de Vigan have concocted a heady melodramatic brew that satisfies without feeling contrived. It’s also a dyed-in-the-wool, easy-on-the-eye example of a genre that can usefully be shorthanded ‘classy French’: big, gorgeous compositions, a gilded palette, characterful faces and not a word wasted or a scene out of place. This might make it a little by-the-book for some viewers, but the feelings have a persuasive, bloody rawness to them

Selected release from Fri 7 Dec.

You Will Be My Son (Tu Seras Mon Fils) in Australian cinemas from November 1

Tu seras mon fils (You Will Be My Son)

  • 4 stars
  • 2011
  • France
  • 1h 42min
  • Directed by: Gilles Legrand
  • Cast: Niels Arestrup, Lorànt Deutsch
  • UK release: 7 December 2012

A winery owner chooses another man's son as his successor over his own flesh and blood in this story of complex father-son relationships.