Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Custody

Reviews - Custody


Reviewed By Ian Payne

The tension in the Alhambra was palpable, not a sound from the audience and all eyes glued to the screen as Custody drew to its breath-taking conclusion. We first meet Miriam and Antoine in a courtroom. The Judge is ruling on the custody of their son Julien after the breakdown of their marriage – their daughter, soon to be 18 will be able to make her own decisions.

Miriam's lawyer portrays her as a victim who has fled the family home under threat from Antoine. Antoine's describes him as a hard-working, well-respected family man who just wants to do the best for and be a father to his son. Whose version is the accurate one?

Julien's statement is read out – he clearly doesn’t want to spend any time with his father but are they his words or has he been influenced by Miriam?

The reality dawns after Antoine is given visiting rights. Whilst Miriam can shelter in her parents' house, it is Julien, played by the 12 year-old Thomas Gioria, who must go out and face Antoine on his own. As Antoine's true character emerges, the contrast between his bullying bulk and the frail 12 year-old becomes more and more apparent. Julien is terrified but constantly and bravely puts himself at risk to avoid the possibility of Antoine coming face to face with his mother. The claustrophobic scenes with Julien and Antoine alone in the front of his van are both powerful and disturbing.

Antoine is desperate to find out Miriam’s permanent address and once he forces Julien to reveal it, events in the film take their inevitable downward spiral leading to that final, tense denouement.

Denis Ménochet is tremendous as Antoine, belligerent and intimidating in one moment, breaking down in tears the next – it is clear he sees himself as the victim in all this. Léa Drucker as Miriam is as taught as a bowstring and powerless against the rule of the Court and Thomas Gioria strikes just the right tones of vulnerability and defiance – a bravura performance from such a young boy.

Those in the audience who were not too emotionally wrung out stayed on after Custody to watch Director Xavier Legrand's earlier short film, Just Before Losing Everything. The film, with the same cast, showed Miriam’s desperate flight from the marital home with her children. Their terrified reaction to Antoine and the bruising to Miriam’s body make Antoine’s lawyer’s words in Custody all the more hollow.

How could we ever have doubted Miriam? Custody, sadly, is truly a film of our times.

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