Custody centres around two warring parents – Miriam (Léa Drucker) and Antoine (Denis Ménochet) – who have split up, and naturally, the children are coming between them. With the eldest, Joséphine (Mathilde Auneveux) being 18, they don’t need to worry about her too much as she’s now an adult, so the attention turns to 11-year-old Julien (Thomas Gioria).
It appears that in France, children can be asked to give a statement about their parents in situations like this, which will be read at the custody hearing. He states he doesn’t want to see his Dad ever again, but why doesn’t Julien want to see his Dad? Is there a reason, or is it something he’s being told by his mother to say?
There’s a great opening scene between lawyers and the parents which lasts 17 minutes and which doesn’t feel anywhere near that long, but they all have to explain their situation and what they want as an outcome. They’ll have a decision from the judge in a week’s time, but once that’s done, we see how the truth about how they operate. Who is being reasonable in the family, and who is being a complete dick?
Custody is a modern Kramer Vs Kramer. I was too young to get into that film when it came out, in 1980, and my parents divorced three years later, so watching this, I can see it from the point of view of the young lad, as I was also 11 at the time.
You get caught in the middle of rows between parents, and when you’re young, you still don’t want them to split up as you assume everything can be easily resolved, but as you get older, you realise that not everyone gets on with everyone else for life and that things change.
Thankfully, my time wasn’t like Julien’s. I hated the split and having to move from a big, detached house to a semi-detached, and my new room being far too small to swing a cat, while both my mother and sister had the bigger rooms, but that doesn’t last forever and you eventually get your own place. It costs you a fortune, and mortgages are the devil’s handiwork, but that’s life.
As for the lad, he goes through a real gamut of emotions, and he’s played brilliantly by Thomas Gloria who should have a great movie career ahead of him based on this.
However, as a whole, some scenes go on too long. For example, while the party has an essential role to play, once its main function is done, we really don’t need to see the guests leaving, plus the birthday girl and her other half putting everything away.
Overall, Custody is a bit less than the sum of its parts, but it’s still well worth watching. This is also writer/director Xavier Legrand‘s first movie, so it certainly is a fantastic start, and he’s been able to work with some superb actors, such as Denis Ménochet who you’ll remember from the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds, where he co-starred opposite Christoph Waltz), but even with this film’s brief 94-minute running time, and with some great editing and direction in there, you could still lop off around 10 minutes overall.
There’s certainly some scenes in this that you’d expect from a more long-standing director and, based on Custody, and the short film also included – Just Before Losing Everything, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Legrand does next.
The film is presented in the original widescreen ratio of 2.39:1, and looks as sharp as you’d expect for a modern movie shot digitally, bringing the dark reality of the warring couple to life.
The sound is in DTS HD-MA 5.1, but this is pretty much just a dialogue-only piece.
The extras are as follows:
- Just Before Losing Everything (30:24): A short film from writer/director Xavier Legrand, and also starring Léa Drucker, this 2013 movie can be seen as a short version of Custody and/or with alternate/deleted scenes, and it has three of the same family cast members on it. Only the lad who plays Julien is different.
Ménochet plays less of a role in it this time, but Drucker is superb throughout. I don’t want to go into additional detail here, as it’ll give spoilers about the main film.
- Trailer (2:15): For, I think, the first ever time in my 20 years of reviewing films on a 5″ disc, this has the same ftrailer in both DTS 5.1 and stereo. However, I listened to it in 5.1 and didn’t notice anything spectacular, since it’s not that sort of film.
The menu mixes a static image similar to the cover to a short piece of repeated music which isn’t part of the score (as there isn’t one to speak of) but I’m not sure where it’s from. Most studios go for 12 chapters which is low enough, but… this film has EIGHT! Huh?!! How many times have I said that one every five minutes is ideal??). On the plus side, there are English subtitles. There’s also trailers before the main menu as if we’re still in the days of rental video. I do wish we could stamp that out.
Running time: 94 minutes
Studio: Spirit Entertainment
Released: September 3rd 2018
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen: 2.39:1 (DCP 4)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Xavier Legrand
Producer: Alexandre Gavras
Screenplay: Xavier Legrand
Miriam Besson: Léa Drucker
Antoine Besson: Denis Ménochet
Julien Besson: Thomas Gioria
Joséphine Besson: Mathilde Auneveux
Samuel: Mathieu Saikaly
Sylvia: Florence Janas
La juge: Saadia Bentaïeb
La greffière: Coralie Russier
Maître Davigny: Sophie Pincemaille
Maître Ghenen: Emilie Incerti-Formentini
Agent opérateur Police Secours: Jérome Care-Aulanier
La voisine: Jenny Bellay
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.