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Father of My Children | reviews, news & interviews

Father of My Children

Father of My Children

The turbulent life of a French film producer

A famliy kept in the dark: Alice Gautier, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing and Manelle Driss in Father of My Children

High summer in Paris. Jazz plays on the soundtrack, the boulevards are bright, leafy and humming and Grégoire, a good-looking man in his mid-forties, scuttles along the street, mobile phone glued to ear. He's troubleshooting on a truly international scale: the Koreans are arriving mob-handed, the Georgians are so demanding and that nutty Swedish director's budget is spiralling out of control. Grégoire is a movie producer, and Father of My Children starts out as a light-hearted, slightly madcap addition to the capacious genre of films about film-making. Slowly, though, it shades into something much more complicated.

Mortgaged to the hilt, Grégoire has built his production company and ambitious slate of hardcore arthouse movies on a sandbank of debt. A model father to his Italian wife and three feisty daughters, he keeps them completely in the dark; indeed he seems himself in deep denial about his desperate position. Less than midway through the film, the crisis erupts in a shocking and violent event that changes everything and everyone around him.

This is much more than a film à clé

It's no secret that Grégoire was inspired by the tragic case of Humbert Balsan, a leading French independent film producer (whose own credits include a film by a mad Scandinavian, Lars von Trier's Manderlay). As Hollywood studios shutter their speciality divisions and the market shrivels for subtitled movies, his story could scarcely be timelier.

Yet this is much more than a film à clé: it's the portrait of a personality who might be mercurial, charming and utterly dedicated but who also has a streak of ruthlessness and egotism in him (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, an actor little-known to British audiences, brilliantly captures these shadings of darkness and light). As it proceeds, the narrative switches focus to investigate the price of his obsession.

The director, Mia Hansen-Løve, started out as an actress for Oliver Assayas- who is now also her life partner - and her work has something in common with Assayas's Late August, Early September or Summer Hours: a fast, zesty energy and thrumming humanism. For all the undoubted melancholy in it, it's warmly recommended.

  • Father of My Children opens today. Click here for screening details.
  • Official site (in French). View trailer here
As it proceeds, the narrative switches focus to investigate the price of his obsession

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