Movie Review: 'Custody'

John Thomas

There is something darkly foreboding about the opening scenes of Custody, an underlying darkness that portends evil. Along with their legal councils, the mother, Miriam Besson (Léa Druckner), and father, Antione Besson (Denis Ménochet) are in the judge’s chamber to negotiate the custody of their two children.

Their daughter, Josephine, (Mathilde Auneveux), will soon turn 18, so she’s not an issue – it’s the son, Julien, (Thomas Gioria) who is.

Miriam’s council reads from a report by a child psychologist regarding Julien’s fears and his reluctance to spend any time with his father. The boy is frightened for his safety and also that of his mother and sister. To avoid contact with his father, he lies about their whereabouts, their lack of mobile telephones and health issues.

The council continues with an outline for child support and division of the shared properties prior to the parents’ divorce.

Antione’s council agrees with the financial division of assets and child support but questions the validity of the report on/by Julien. She (and the father) feels that a 12-year-old boy needs the companionship and guidance of his father and may be exaggerating supposed threats he only imagines.

The judge has heard enough, she dismisses everyone with the promise to make her decision and notify all concerned in a week’s time.

The white van pulls up to the grandparents’ home with Antione at the wheel. He’s here to collect Julian who is cowering in the embrace of his mother and grandparents and begging not to have to leave. Antione drives Julien to his parents’ home for the noon meal.

The grandparents love to have the boy in their home but soon feel irritation towards their own son. Anger flares, voices are raised – Antione grabs his things – and his son – and storms out the door.

Julien wants to attend his sister’s 18th birthday celebration, however a conflict arises with a previous activity Antione has planned for the two of them. Frustration increases as Antione realizes things are not what he had hoped for which makes him even more volatile. He soon finds where his estranged family has moved to and cons his entry to the flat, “to see where my family now lives,” he claims. Not a good idea!

The day of the birthday celebration arrives and with it fears on the part of the family as to how Antione will react. There is sheer terror in the eyes of Julien for what he fears will likely come to pass.

Julien is again cowering, seat-belted into the front seat of the white van with his father at the wheel. The vehicle stirs up rocks and dust as it speeds away from the curb onto the road – to where is it headed?

Directed by Xavier Legrand (Credits: Just Before Losing Everything), this is a “should see” film running 93 minutes.


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