Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The French come through again: Gilles Legrand's riveting YOU WILL BE MY SON

Leaping genres like crazy -- family drama to father/son face-off to mystery thriller to socio-economic-class treatise to a film about how the powerful manage to maintain that power -- YOU WILL BE MY SON brings each genre to thrilling, pulsating life, while simultaneously giving us one of the best narrative films ever made about grape-growing and wine-making. The movie is a don't-miss for sophisticated audi-ences who appre-ciate surprise and on-the-mark characterization, along with some succulent drama.

As directed and co-written (with Delphine de Vigan and Laure Gasparrotto) by Gilles Legrand, this fine French film offers something else that we rarely encounter. It allows us to see things from the viewpoint of all the major characters. I don't mean that we get Rashomon-like renderings of what happens here. Instead, the filmmakers (I'm including the writers, too) very skillfully incorporate each person's needs, desires, intentions and especially the reasons for all these right into the action of the film. You might ask, But don't most movies do this? Very few, and even then, not nearly in the manner of this one -- which does it so well that we identify with and understand these characters and consequently cannot help but be -- to a surprising extent -- on the side of each of them.

This would include even the main protagonist, Paul de Marseul, played by the exceptional actor Niels Arestrup (above, and seen recently in A Prophet, War Horse and Sarah's Key), who owns and runs an outstanding vineyard in St. Emilion and will be seen by some as the villain here. I admit that this character, who is so curtly unkind to his own son, will have you quickly inflamed, but as the film progresses, you will come to understand even him, for Paul, finally, must do what is best and right for the grapes.

On the estate and vineyard also live Paul's son (Lorànt Deutsch, above right, of The Joy of Singing) and daughter-in-law (Anne Marivin, above, left). The former tries like crazy to please his father, while the latter barely puts up with the old man, yet keeps family matters humming along as best she can.

Also on (or near) the estate resides another family: the Amelots, the gravely-ill father of whom (the fine Patrick Chenais, above, right) manages the vineyard for Paul and happens to have a son (Nicolas Bridet, above, left) who, in the eyes of Paul, is everything his own son, below, is not.

All this is the set-up for angry clashes that cut deep and profoundly, and while we are not surprised to get them, when they arrive we may not feel quite the way we expected regarding their outcome. (The movie begins with a funeral/cremation, then flashes back and slowly wends its way home.)

M. Legrand's direction is all it needs to be, and so is the conception and execution of the screenplay, with dialog that moves proceedings properly onward while remaining intelligent and real. Performances, to a man and woman, are spot-on.

Class, the proletariat, work and its proper reward all come into play here, and are given the same judgment-free viewpoint that our characters receive. This, too, is bracing. You Will Be My Son should be a mainstream-arthouse hit.

The movie, from Cohen Media Group and running 102 minutes, opens this Friday, August 16, at The Paris theater in New York City. Further playdates around the country should be announced on the film's Cohen website soon.

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