‘Custody’ (2017) becomes a blood-pumping, Adrenalin-inducing masterful film

by Martin Hafer

The French writer/director Xavier Legrand was nominated for the Oscar for Best Live Action Short for 2014 with his film Just Before Losing Everything.  This film was about a mother and her children who are fleeing a violent and abusive husband…and it sure packed an emotional wallop.  Amazingly, Legrand is back with the same family…and a full-length follow up to the previous film…and it’s even better!  A reason to watch this is because the most intense, heart-wrenching and well directed 15 minutes make up the final portion of the film…and I could hear folks crying, gasping and calling out as well!!

The film begins with a custody hearing.  The judge is listening to the evidence and it’s difficult to really know what’s going on with the family.  Is the father an abusive monster who doesn’t deserve to have custody of his 11 year-old son?  Or, is the child right when he says he never wishes to have contact with the man again…and he’s afraid of the man?

Regardless, the judge decides to award joint custody to the father and mother.  Inexplicably, the visits with the possibly violent father are unsupervised…and the audience has no idea what’s going to happen next.  Needless to say…really bad things are going to happen and soon!

The first half of this movie is good…but not amazing.  It’s all important as set up for the final portion and I cannot say enough about how well all this comes together at the end.  The acting by Denis Ménochet (as the father) and Thomas Gloria (as the son) were both exceptionally good…with the man being incredibly menacing and the boy extremely realistic as a son who is truly terrified.  Not a film for the faint of heart, but a blood-pumping, Adrenalin-inducing masterful film that could easily be a strong candidate for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.  If it’s not at least nominated, I’d be very surprised.

Martin’s Grade: A+