Custody: Xavier Legrand’s French drama film Custody ('Jusqu'à la garde') details the heated legal battle between Mariam and Antoine Besson as they negotiate the custody rights for their son Julien following their divorce. Mariam and their children, including older daughter Josephine, no longer want to associate with Antoine, and as the plot progresses, the reasoning for their animosity becomes all the more clear.
Choosing Sides: What this film excels at is drastically shifting the sympathy of the main character—a man initially portrayed as a caring father being wrongfully denied the right to see his only son, then gradually shifting into an emotionally unstable threat to those around him. The fear he has imposed on his loved ones is evident in the subtle way they avoid eye contact or remain stiff as he addresses them. Performances by Denis Ménochet as Antoine and Thomas Gioria as Julien are especially notable for their believability during their onscreen interactions. Every unanswered question, strained hug, and tense look conveys an uncomfortable atmosphere palpable to viewers.
Fatherly Love: All of the surmounting suspense of Custody leads to an unforgettable climax that tests the limits of the characters’ fears and buried tensions. By this point in the film, Antoine has done everything in his power to learn about the lives of his wife and children, from where they now live to the fact that Mariam has a new boyfriend. His anger and hostility boil down to an unpredictable enemy that the audience was originally intended to feel remorse for, and this shift in his character dynamic is skillfully executed. By the movie’s end, an off-putting mixture of terror and an uneasy relief is experienced while the resolution slowly comes to a close.
Harrowing and painfully real in its approach, Custody is a whirlwind of intrigue from beginning to end.