Custody (15) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir: Xavier Legrand, France, 2017, 93 mins.

Cast: Lea Drucker, Denis Menochet, Thomas Gioria, Mathilde Auneveux

Review by Carlie Newman

CUSTODY is a film which really beefs up the tension as it progresses so that by the end, the audience is siting forward hardly breathing, to watch what is going to happen. But this is no horror film, rather a domestic abuse tragedy that escalates.

Antoine (Denis Menochet) appears to be a pleasant decent man as he stands before the family court in France pleading for joint custody of his young son, Julien (Thomas Gioria), asserting that he has moved to the town, where his former wife, Miriam (Lea Drucker) now lives with eleven-year-old Julien and older sister Josephine, to be near his son.

While the family court judge accepts what he says as true, the family know differently as he is a very abusive person, even beating his wife while the children watched. Miriam never told anyone about her mistreatment, so all the Judge can go on is the versions given by the conflicting parents. But the judge grants Antoine joint custody despite Julien not wanting it. Josephine (Mathilde Auneveux), who is of age, chooses not to have anything to do with her bullying dad.

Julien – a wonderful child actor – dreads seeing his father who begins to show his old tendencies, but because of the court’s ruling, he is forced to go with Antoine. When Antoine breaks into his divorced wife’s home we start to fear – rightly – for their safety.

Sensitively directed by Xavier Legrand, he manages to show the full force of violence and to never to go over the top. The acting by all the main characters is superb. The young boy, Gioria who plays Julien gives a very sensitive portrayal of a son caught between his mother and father. But in this case, Julien realises how violent his father is and is absolutely convinced that he doesn’t want to live or even have days out with his bullying dad.

Denis Menochet gives a performance which starts off subtly as he manipulates the family court into giving him joint custody of his young son. But later he gradually reveals the full extent of his inherently violent nature, first revealed in his contact outings with his son and then the full extent is shown as he bursts into the family home.

As the wife and mother Lea Drucker has, perhaps, the most difficult job as she has to show that although her family is the most important aspect of her life, she didn’t tell anyone of the abuse she suffered from her husband.

This film is no Shining but a domestic drama which shows the full force of domestic violence. The camera is used to perfection with close intimate scenes giving way to Antoine’s full rampages through the rooms of his ex-wife and son’s home. As the director also wrote the script we must give him full credit for this tight atmospheric film which is not to be missed.