Xavier Legrand’s Custody begins with a custody hearing between Antoine (Denis Ménochet) and Myriam (Léa Drucker), who are in the midst of a nasty separation and battling each other over their young son Julien (Thomas Gioria). Antoine has a list of reasons why Myriam isn’t fit to be the sole parent and she has her reasons why he shouldn’t either. Custody quickly paints a portrait of the obvious side we as the viewers should be on and doesn’t let go of his exhausting grip.
“Julien is their pawn and shows the devastating middle he is placed in…”
Antoine and Myriam also have a teenage daughter, Joséphine (Mathilde Auneveux), who is kept mostly out of her parents’ fights. Julien is their pawn and Custody shows the devastating middle he is placed in. The kids end up spending most of their time with their mother with Antoine having to demand time with his son. Antoine is the clear villain, almost a bit too menacing in a way that makes you hope no child ever really has to be subjected to a parent like him.
Any resonating power within the film lies within the strong performances. Young Gloria appears as the standout as Julien. His fear and discomfort around his father are palpable and the young actor has a natural way of conveying that to us without ever really say a whole lot. Julien is old enough to know his father isn’t a nice person and he feels like a stranger around him.
“His fear and discomfort around his father are palpable and…has a natural way of conveying that…”
Custody has moments of true power and realism but spends a great deal of time bouncing Julien back and forth between his parents. Structurally, things become a bit repetitive and ultimately tiresome. Custody does offer some moments of power and realism but spends a great deal of time wallowing in the film’s miserablism.
Legrand doesn’t have much new to say about parent separation and the children who get put in between. He mainly is here for the drama of it all and that only carries the film so far.
Custody (2018) Written and directed by Xavier Legrand. Starring Denis Ménochet, Léa Drucker, Thomas Gioria, Mathilde Auneveux.
5 out of 10