You Will Be My Son: Film Review
Gilles Legrand's psychological thriller concerns the intergenerational battle for control of a French vineyard.
A deliciously entertaining melodrama with echoes of both biblical stories and Shakespeare, Gilles Legrand’s You Will Be My Son somehow manages to make a battle for control of a vineyard seem utterly fascinating. Niels Aresturp delivers a powerhouse performance as a malevolent patriarch in this French psychological thriller recently showcased at Lincoln Center’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema festival before its stateside release in May.
Oenophiles will relish the atmosphere of this film that concerns Paul (Arestrup), an aging vineyard owner who treats his loyal son Martin (Lorant Deutsch) with barely disguised contempt for reasons that are revealed only towards the end. He reserves his affections mainly for Francois (Patrick Chesnais), the vineyard’s expert caretaker of nearly four decades. When the elderly Francois is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Martin naturally expects to assume his mantle. But his ambitions are thwarted by the arrival of Philippe (Nicolas Bridet), Francois’ dashing and talented son who has already proven himself with his successful stewardship of a California winery. Suddenly Paul lavishes all his attentions on this prodigal son, with Martin and his loving wife Alice (Anne Marivin) looking on with increasingly dismay.
Culminating with the sort of diabolical narrative flourish of which any prime time television soap would be proud, the film overcomes its schematic plot elements with finely observed characterizations and rich dialogue. But what really makes it work is Arestrup’s superbly controlled turn as the King Lear-like vineyard owner whose elegant Gallic charm fails to mask a raging ego and ruthlessness that makes him as compelling as he is thoroughly dislikable. The supporting performances are equally superb, with Deutsch movingly conveying Martin’s mounting anguish and Chesnais delivering a subtle, sly turn as the caretaker caught up in the generational battle.
Working from a beautifully calibrated screenplay co-written with Delphine de Vigan, the filmmaker fully exploits the beauty of the French region of Saint Emilion for this gripping family drama whose elemental themes will resonate with viewers even if their knowledge of wine is limited to choosing between the house red or white.
Venue: Rendez-Vous with French Cinema
Production: Epithete Films
Cast: Niels Arestrup, Lorant Deutsch, Patrick Chesnais, Anne Marivan, Nicolas Bridet, Valerie Mairesse, Jean-marc Roulot
Director: Gilles Legrand
Screenwriters: Gilles Legrand, Delphine de Vigan
Producers: Frederick Brillion, Gilles Legrand
Director of photography: Yves Angelo
Editor: Andrea Sedlackova
Production designer: Philippe Roux
Costume designer: Tess Hammami
Composer: Armand Amar
Not rated, 101 min.