‘The story of an explosion in a closed world’ is how the young Belgian writer-director Joachim Lafosse has described Private Property, his emotionally complex and mordantly amusing family drama, in which the boundaries between parents and children become fatally blurred.
Divorced mother Pascale (Isabelle Huppert) lives with her grown-up twin sons, Thierry and François (played by real-life brothers Jeremie and Yannick Renier), in a rambling converted farmhouse. The boys enjoy a cocooned existence: she does all the cooking and the cleaning, while they watch TV, play computer games and table tennis, and shoot rats on the riverbank (that the siblings also still bathe together suggests an element of infantilisation). But when Pascale reveals that she plans to sell the property, which is actually owned by her ex-husband (Patrick Descamps), and set up a B&B with her new lover, her offspring respond furiously.
Fans of the Dardennes brothers should relish the immediacy and austerity of Lafosse’s filmmaking. Shooting on location and using music sparingly, he prefers long, controlled takes, where the framing traps these individuals within their stifling domestic environment. Demonstrating how mealtimes are key sites of familial conflict, Private Property is also impressively acted by its trio of leads, whose characters seem painfully unaware of the emotional cruelty they inflict on those they love.
Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 2–Thu 8 May.