Mort-Lieu (Pascal Gregory) has ruled his lands for several years. Most of his kingdom was conquered by use of force. Now, this aged warlord is dying and feels the weight of his legacy in full. A stranger (François-David Cardonnel) clad in heavy armor, upon a massive steed, takes a position up top the hill closest to Mort-Lieu’s castle. Fearing it might be death itself come for him, the warrior king lashes out at his son Hargrold (Jonas Bloquet), whom he believes to be an unworthy successor, and vows to discover the dark knight’s desires.
By Blood (translated from its French title, Par le Sang) finds new life in a common tale. Written and directed by Jonathan Delerue and Guillaume Enard the 20-minute film doesn’t add much to the pop culture depiction of the Middle Ages. An old, brutal king is worried about how his name will be remembered, and about who is inheriting his legacy is a trope used throughout films; traditionally it is a subplot in other movies. That does not make it any less a cliche though.
“Fearing it might be death itself come for him, the warrior king lashes out at his son…”
However, it does find strength in its well-drawn characters. Mort-Lieu’s struggles with his impending bereavement make for an engaging angle. One can’t often mourn themselves. Hargrold’s attempts to prove himself to his father are an earnest effort to show that he does love his father. This dynamic carries By Blood and its emotional stakes to its quite remarkable ending.
Whom the knight parked atop the hill winds up being isn’t much of a surprise. However, the way it plays out is impactful. The cinematography and music swell together in perfect harmony and as the truth of the matter stretches across Gregory’s face, By Blood finds its voice just as its wrapping up.
By Blood looks good, with (seemingly) amazing period accuracy, and a remarkably game cast. The story being told though takes a little while to grab hold, as it isn’t particularly original. The ending shows off the intentions of the filmmakers well and does make for an overall satisfactory, if modest, viewing experience.
By Blood (2018) Directed by Jonathan Delerue, Guillaume Enard. Written by Jonathan Delerue, Guillaume Enard. Starring Jonas Bloquet, François-David Cardonnel, Anne Charrier, Pascal Gregory, Eric Savin.
6 Swords (out of 10)