Film review – Custody


In association with the GFT

The silence of Custody’s rolling end credits is met with only a sigh of dubious consolation from Glasgow Film Theatre’s audience. In French director Xavier Legrand’s feature debut the tale of his award-winning short Just Before Losing Everything is resumed and we are reintroduced to the fraught story of a post-divorce custody battle between brutish abuser Antoine (Denis Ménochet) and Miriam, a woman striving to flee from his remorseless violence and manipulation, carefully played by Léa Drucker. The plot explores the consequences of the shortcomings of the justice system, which allows Antoine access to the couple’s pre-teen son, Julien (Thomas Giora) – an access which he slyly uses to torment, torture, and terrorise his ex-wife, who is trying to start a new life free from her abuser.

The film is expertly captivating throughout its variations in pace, maintaining an overarching stillness to the point of genre-bending this social drama into an anxious thriller. The story, whilst widely diverse in its message, could be seen as a character study of hulking thug Antoine, as his character is seen through the perspective of those around him. Young Julien acts as the fearful, resentful method of communication between abuser and abused, and this role is later passed onto Miriam after Antoine manipulates his young son and discovers their new home, violating his ex-wife’s life all over again. With the exception of a loud party scene, the film is predominantly tranquil and discreet, building tension by the looming presence of the behemoth antagonist, until the final denouement which is where the film transforms into a The Shining-like horror.

Legrand’s film is a quiet terror which exposes the reality for many unfortunate people which the justice system has failed time and time again. The idea of perspective is very important in this story, distancing us from the domestic abuse yet forcing us to engage with the realness of the situation, conveyed through excellent, almost documentary-style camera work alongside the overwhelmingly moving performance from the young Giora. A subdued display of dread and malaise, this film is certainly only the beginning of a long career for Legrand.

This film will screen at the GFT from the 19th to the 26th of April. Tickets are available here.

The GFT also offers a free 15-25 discount card to students, available here.

[Ellen Magee @mondaymagee]

 

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