GFF 2018: Xavier Legrand builds on his Oscar-nominated short in a powerful domestic abuse drama
Domestic abuse is a deadly serious subject that time and time again is not dealt with satisfactorily. Xavier Legrand's powerful debut feature (winner of the Silver Lion at Venice 2017) is a continuation of his Oscar-nominated short and explores the insidious nature of this kind of violence. It's a tense drama that initially places the viewer in the shoes of a judge appointed to rule on the custody of 11-year-old Julien (Thomas Gioria) who has vehemently expressed disdain for his father Antoine (Denis Ménochet).
Despite this, Julien is ordered to spend alternate weekends with Antoine and there's nothing his mother Miriam (Léa Drucker) can do about it. Julien's 17-year-old sister Joséphine (Mathilde Auneveux) chooses not to see her father and the scene is set for the viewer to learn the truth about how terror and intimidation can swallow up lives.
Though the explosive denouement is heavily signposted, Legrand displays real skill throughout in evoking the feeling of being imprisoned by your circumstances. His camera gets up in Giora's face, who conveys Julien's fear of and loathing for his father through a seething performance.
The psychological toll on the entire family is apparent and one of the most powerful moments in the film comes at Joséphine's 18th birthday party, where she sings a rousing rendition of 'Proud Mary' knowing her father could intrude at any moment. Auneveux delivers a mighty turn and Legrand focuses not only on the pained expression behind her eyes as she looks out from the stage to witness her mother's discomfort, but also on the carefree dancing of those not in a vicious chokehold of a situation. Custody is often profoundly distressing but that's precisely the point.
Screening on Tue 27 and Wed 28 Mar as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2018. Selected release from Fri 13 Apr.