Divorce is a tricky beast. For the lucky ones, it can end amicably as lust turns to love turns to friendship and you part ways knowing you were once happy and had a life together. Despite the impact it may have on everyone involved, divorce can be the end of an era, a relationship gone mute, and those people can move on with their lives.
However, when your ex-spouse is abusive and the courts keep you tied to him through your own children, the situation can almost turn deadly.
That’s the focus of Xavier Legrand’s Custody.
The heavy drama revolves around Miriam and Antoine, a bitterly divorced couple who are going through many different court battles to accrue custody of their youngest son Julien. The boy is bounced from mother to father and starts to unravel because of it. Whilst Julien is forced into uncomfortable situations, his father’s stoic façade begins to fall and the truth spills out horrifying…
Denis Menchot is a tour-de-force as the hulking Antoine. Looming over the screen, Menchot’s presence is like a villainous shadow, haunting even at the times where he isn’t there. He keeps his anger and rage broiling underneath his eyes so that those who don’t know him are charmed by him whilst those who know him can see the monster he hides. It’s a terrific performance by Menchot, reminiscent of Robert Mitchem’s Preacher in Night of the Hunter, or Brian Cox’s Hannibal Lecter – mean of pure sociopath nature, twisting the world into their will regardless of the cost. As the tension brews to ahead, Menchot masters this terrifying and all too realistic portrayal of an abuser.
Sharp and tightly directed Custody is brooding masterpiece. It delves into the intricacies of abuse without over-playing it. The emotional turmoil that Lea Drucker’s stricken and pained Miriam is put through Drucker is an accomplished actress. With just a flicker of her eye or a quiet delivery, you can see the horrors that have been inflicted upon her. And yet, with that, you see her strength and determination to remove her ex-husband from their lives…for her sake, and her children’s.
An upcoming star here is Thomas Gioria as the young Julien. Here, unlike his sister Josephine who has cut off contact with her father, Julien is used as a pawn. Antoine is determined to worm his way into Miriam’s life again and using his son. It adds to the deplorable nature of Antoine and Julien’s terror is palpable; the fear he feels for his father and the pulsates with this nervous and insular nature.
Xavier Legrand’s work here is stunning. It’s an intense and intimate piece that has developed breath-takingly due to the outstanding work by the actors involved. A chilling exploration of mental, emotional, and physical abuse, Custody is this year’s most haunting feature.
Custody is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!