Reviewed by: Mehran Mehrabanpour
Starring: Michel Bouquet, Charles Berling, Natacha Regnier, Stephane Guillon, Amira Casar | Directed by: Anne Fontaine | Written by: Jacques Fieschi, Anne Fontaine
If there is a quintessential French film, this is it. Very well measured and controlled, “How I killed My Father” sneaks up on the audience with such subtlety that we are haunted for days afterwards. It is a mesmerising film by writer-director Anne Fontaine who builds her desired effect through powerful performances from 2 of France’s leading actors—Michel Bouquet and Charles Berling.
Jean-luc (Berling) is a successful doctor with a beautiful wife whose carefully composed life begins to disintegrate on the reappearance of his long absent father, Maurice (Bouquet), whom he presumed dead. Charming and enigmatic, Maurice has just returned from Africa and needs somewhere to stay. Jean-luc puts him up, at once exposing himself to the hatred and emotional agony that he has kept buried for so long because of his fathers truancy. Jean-luc’s wife, Isa (Regnier), falls for Maurice’s charm and establishes a close bond, further enraging Jean-luc.
Initially, everything between the men is played out under restraint and courtesy. As Maurice begins to exercise more influence and control, Jean-luc feels threatened and the polite tip toeing between them is exchanged for something more sincere, more damaging. The tension is skillfully built up, and we are allowed to see just how much ruin Maurice has unintentionally bought upon his son.
The film works at a depth that forces us to participate. There are no easy answers, no black and white conclusions. Only muted colours, sealed emotions and unfulfilled relationships. This is movie making at its best, a superbly elegant charting of the repressed and turbulent emotions underpinning the bond between father and son.
In French with English subtitles.