In Xavier Legrand’s Custody, viewers may get the sense that instead of the domestic drama this has been billed as, what they’re in fact watching is something much closer to a horror film. After the court hearing that opens the film, Miriam (Léa Drucker) is ordered to share custody with her husband Antoine (Denis Ménochet), a man whom both she and her children have claimed is a hot-tempered, abusive brute. Over the next few weeks, Antoine spends time with his 11 year-old son Julien (Thomas Gioria), who makes clear his disinterest for any contact with his father and consistently tries to shield his mother from his stalker tendencies.
Legrand proves masterful at building tension throughout; he shoots primarily in semi-close ups to enhance the sense of claustrophobia everyone feels around Antoine, while also accentuating his immensely imposing burliness. As the film progresses, Antoine is shown to be clearly unstable, unraveling with increased speed until the film’s final third, in which the horror influences here abandon any pretense of subtlety. Controlling men are among the least pitiable humans, and Legrand smartly and organically builds on cinematic expectations of conflicted characters, demonstrating wonderful control and sense of pace, before definitively exposing Antoine for what he is—a true monster.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2017 | Dispatch 2.