Watch The Trailer
Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Custody opens with a legal hearing in a small meeting room. Miriam and Antoine are a separated couple who, with the help of their respective lawyers, are arguing in front of a judge about who should be granted custody of their 11-year-old son, Julien. Each puts forward a persuasive argument but given inconsistencies in their stories, it clear that at least one side (if not both) is not being truthful. The judge wraps things up by stating she will review their claims and make a decision at a future date.
The film is structured in a way that we, as the audience, become the jury. This is the first time we’ve met these characters and we have no idea about their history and time together. Rather than provide superfluous flashback sequences, the director wants us to form our own opinion as we observe Miriam, Antoine and Julien in the days following the custody hearing. There’s a widely-held belief that it takes just seven seconds to make a first impression but you’re likely to need a lot more time than that to size up these individuals and their motives.
There’s a lot to think about here. It’s a movie that delves into the complexities of a relationship breakdown when children get caught in the middle. The 11-year-old Julien, beautifully played by newcomer Thomas Gioria, finds himself the unwilling participant in a game of emotional tug-of-war. He’s old enough to understand the situation and form a view about which parent he prefers. However, he’s still too young to appreciate the way he is being manipulated in pursuit of other goals. Custody took home the prize for best director at the 2017 Venice Film Festival and is one of 5 movies short-listed by the French National Film Board as the country’s entry into next year’s Oscar’s race for Best Foreign Language Film. The unrelenting narrative and flawless performances make this a powerful piece of cinema.