Custody is a strong execution of simplicity. This French drama is the antithesis of overcompensating in cinematic storytelling gracing us with a provocative script and great performances throughout its 93 minute runtime.
With a screenplay written by the director: Xavier Legrand, Custody tells the story of a divorced family and the intense developments that occur after a judge's ruling. The mother Miriam is played by veteran French actress Lea Drucker with the father played by that French farmer you recognise from the famous prologue of Inglourious Basterds: Denis Menochet.
The son named Julian however, takes the real cake. Played by Thomas Giora, this young infant child must have had one hell of a good acting coach as he communicates so many subtle nuances in his expressions throughout the movie. The camera is in love with him also. Many shots surrounds him and his eyes that spell out utter chaos and anger in the situations he gets put in. The kid can also seemingly cry on command and convincingly so making his much older co-stars look bland by comparison in various pivotal scenes.
The film does not use any music. No score whatsoever. Therefore one relies a lot on the dialogue and the sound of action for the story to ring true and that’s where the screenplay really holds its ground. Suspense is used sparingly with conservative camera movement making the film focus a lot on our characters and their inner psychology. Dialogue at least through its english translation isn’t too profound or sophisticated. Yet, it works and you become glued to the screen almost like you’re under its spell.
Without spoiling the film’s plot, the film can be pretty predictable once you reach the half way mark. The film may be confident of itself through its shock and awe style of storytelling, but with that lies a comfort that isn’t concerned to go that extra mile. The characters are not so dynamic in their motivations once you finish the first act. This is such a shame as the opening scene illustrated a lot of potential in making the viewer explore the mystery of who is the real villain between the mom and dad. There’s even a scene where the son does something significantly of his own accord that makes you think that he has been playing the both mum and dad! But then afterwards, the possibility of a mysterious psychological thriller is kaput as it goes into cushy familiar territory.
I honestly cannot imagine this movie with a score of music now that I have seen it. It’s a testimony to a great screenplay despite its safe plot. The ending despite having incredible force and ferocity, comes across as a bit far-fetched if you put yourself in the shoes of one of the parents that plays an important role in the scene. It just happens too fast and raises a question that you want answered before the abrupt stylistic ending leading to silent credit roll.
Custody is by no means the film of the year. But it does engage you well and in the right places. Despite a screenplay that decided to shoot itself in the foot and then get polished, Custody is still a provocative watch that deserves your attention. It’ll certainly make you pick your spouse more wisely.