The Father of My Children -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

More Cannes reviews

CANNES -- In "The Father of My Children," writer-director Mia Hansen-Love only partially succeeds in her attempt to assess dramatically the life of a man who commits suicide. She situates this act at the film's midpoint so as to make the case that this death -- or rather the manner of this death -- doesn't tell the whole story about a life that was fully lived or the lives of his survivors.

This is a special film even within its native France. Most international play dates outside of Europe will occur at festivals. A charismatic producer the filmmaker met while working on her first film, who later killed himself, inspires Hansen-Love's story. So naturally she displays empathy toward this character, a warm and charming man who will nevertheless experiences a crushing sense of failure.

Gregoire (a beguiling Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) has backed many important films and filmmakers in his career as a producer, but he is now at wit's end.

He rushes from this meeting to that, a mobile phone in constant use, as he tries to keep too many risky projects afloat. Even so, he doesn't totally neglect his Italian wife (Chiara Caselli) or three wonderful daughters. He is careful to spend what we Americans call "quality time" with each daughter and takes everyone on holiday to Italy even as his business is falling apart. The film undergoes an abrupt change in point of view when Gregoire shoots himself. Initially, the wife assumes center stage as she gamely tries to save her husband's company and to complete his projects.

Then the story shifts to the eldest daughter (Alice de Lencquesaing), who is shocked to learn she has a half-brother she knew nothing about, then forms an attraction to a young filmmaker that suggests she is her father's daughter.

At fade-out, one has too many questions though. Why did Gregoire never play his so-called trump card of borrowing money from his wealthy family? What papers did he burn moments before reaching for a gun? Why was his son kept a secret?

You realize how little you actually know any of these characters. In the end, an audience has far too much knowledge about Gregoire's movie projects and finances and far too little about what makes anyone here tick.

Festival de Cannes -- Un Certain Regard

Sales: Les Films du Losange
Production companies: Les Films Pelleas/27 Films Production

Cast: Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Ciara Caselli, Alice de Lencquesaing, Alice
Gautier, Manelle Driss, Eric Elmosnina, Sandrine Dumas
Director-screenwriter: Mia Hansen-Love
Producers: Philippe Martin, David Thion, Olivier Damian
Director of photography: Pascal Auffray
Production designer: Mathieu Menut
Costume designer: Bethsabee Dreyfus
Editor: Marion Monnier
Sales: Les Films du Losange
No rating, 110 minutes