Custody is built on fear – the fear inspired by a man prepared to do anything to get back a woman who wants nothing to do with him in a bid to escape his violent behaviour.
Miriam (Léa Drucker) and Antoine (Denis Ménochet) Besson have divorced. Antoine is seen as a permanent threat to those around him. He makes everyone tense; he can only feel his own pain, and he would manipulate anyone, including his children. Miriam is seeking sole custody of their son Julien (Thomas Gioria) to protect him from a father she claims is violent. Antoine pleads his case as a scorned dad. A hostage to the escalating conflict between his parents, Julien is pushed to the edge.
A deeply distressing drama, Custody becomes more and more alarming as it progresses. In the end we are left quite traumatised, along with the victims, although their anguish is a whole lot more real. The hearing involving the husband and wife that begins proceedings is difficult enough. Whilst you don’t know who to believe, you certainly get an inkling.
It takes a while to work out exactly what is going on, but once you understand, the ramifications become all too clear. The system that allows this to happen is deeply flawed. There may be no easy answers, but there has to be something better than this.
Much remains left unsaid, but the message is loud and clear. No pretty pictures are painted here … and that’s what gives this story such bite. It feels like real people going through real anguish.
The performances are largely downplayed. Gritty and unrelenting, Custody is a well-conceived and intelligently directed film that packs a real punch. It won the Best Director and Best Debut Film awards at the Venice International Film Festival last year. Plaudits to the writer and director Xavier Legrand.
Director: Xavier Legrand
Cast: Denis Menochet, Thomas Gioria, Léa Drucker
Release Date: 27 September 2018
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television