Gripping, tense, and upsetting to all those with family issues, Custody is a magnificent debut from director Xavier Legrand.
This movie is not a family film. If family films are designed to bring people together, Custody is its antithesis- a movie about a family ripped apart by violence and miscommunication. It’s beginning in real time as a court case deciding on joint custody is hardly indicative of the last act, in which everything comes to a head and the suspense tears just in time to terrify viewers. In a way, Custody is a horror film for anyone contemplating marriage and a settled life, and it is a swift reminder that we never truly know our partners. The standout in this is Thomas Gioria in the role of Julien, torn between his two parents with a fierce allegiance to his mother. This reviewer was on edge for much of the film.
It is well-written, and the dynamics between the main characters are all gripping- from the father’s relationship with his parents to Julien’s attachment to his mother. It is an upsetting film, so keep that in mind. The themes of domestic abuse and difficult marriages are incredibly important for raising awareness via the arts, but it can be detrimental to someone’s mental health to watch this film if they aren’t careful. It is incredibly realistic and the acting is on point, and it raises an interesting notion – that issues at home can often be overlooked by the authorities until it is too late. This is of course not a public service announcement but rather a narrative, and it starts out pretty slow. The payoff, however, is worth it as the tension builds.
With a tight cast and static setting- always indoors or just outside a home- Custody proves that foreign cinema can evoke empathy that’s local.
The film opens on June 29.