A hellishly tense family drama around impending divorce and the custody of one child in particular, an eleven year-old son. The build-up of tension throughout the film is one of the most effective I have ever seen on screen. If you're a nail-biter you can expect to nibble them right down to the quick! (Note that well, you makers of thrillers and horror films!)
It's the present day in an unspecified French location, and the film starts with legal arguments between the respective female solicitors for each of the disputing parties (Lea Drucker & Denis Menochet, above), she making claims about the violence of her husband towards both herself and their daughter (approaching 18 and hence a young adult capable in law of making her own decisions) and the threats he's also made against their son (Thomas Gloria - a remarkable and convincing performance) the principal subject of their dispute. The husband denies all the allegations, there being no witnesses to their arguments outside the family, though the son has made clear in writing his wish to remain with his mother on a permanent basis despite his father being granted shared custodial rights. Likewise, the daughter is on her mother's side too.
You can probably guess the situations which engender the tension, and director Xavier Legrand handles it all flawlessly without overplaying it, creating a true model of how suspense should be done.
The entire cast is very strong, though for a considerable time I was distracted by wondering why main actress Lea Drucker looked familiar. And then it dawned on me. It doesn't show so much in the above picture but believe me when I say that there are more than a few moments where she rather alarmingly and uncannily resembles one-time darling (and still so for many) of the American Republican far right, one Ann Coulter (maybe less so now since she's started railing against the President - he being not reactionary enough, I suppose!) But aside from that little personal quirk of my observation, her performance is astonishing and credible - as also is that of the burly and menacing Denis Menochet who spends most of the film simmering like a volcano on the very cusp of erupting, and whom you never know just what will tip him over and when.
I was within a whisker of rating this film with a clear '8', but finally what I felt ever so slightly let down by was that the thought that it could have been an even more powerful film if the ending had been less clear-cut than it was. A partly-suspended resolution I think would have been more in character with all that had gone on before, and perhaps more satisfying, though I accept that with such high-level tension throughout a lot of the audience might have felt cheated if they weren't given a black-and-white finale. It's only a personal viewpoint which others may not agree with, and that's fair enough. However I can confidently state now that 'Custody' will feature as one of my top films of 2018..............7.5.
1 hour ago