* * * * (out of five)
Xavier Legrand’s debut feature film follows in the footsteps of last year’s Russian masterpiece of divorce and dismay, Loveless. This is a leaner take; if Loveless took a meat cleaver to marriage and its aftershocks, Custody is more like a shiv. Which is to say, still sharp and lethal.
Léa Drucker and Denis Ménochet play the separated couple waiting for their divorce; they have two children, but, as with Loveless, the focus here is on the impact their separation has on their eleven year old son, and it’s not good.
Loveless was, in its quiet way, an epic, a scathing indictment of modern humanity. Custody examines the day to day affect of joint custody and is far more contained and seemingly modest. Yet by the end, it has achieved momentous power. It is meticulously constructed, building with painfully specific intent. Ultimately, it is shattering. This is a film where strangers (at a general public screening at the French Film Festival) and I all checked in with each other afterwards, because we were all so moved, and shaken. A spectacular debut.