Three is not a magic number in Belgian filmmaker Joachim Lafosse’s devastating look at a young married couple (Tahar Rahim and Émilie Dequenne) whose lives are intertwined with that of an elderly doctor (Niels Arestrup). The latter raised the husband, an Arab immigrant—so why shouldn’t the kindly physician live with the now-grown man and his wife, accompany them on their honeymoon, help take care of their kids and control virtually every aspect of their lives? You’re never sure whether this pathologically manipulative puppet master is a patron saint or Satan. But given the flash-forward opening scene that conspicuously mentions “burials in Morocco,” you sense that things will not end well. (Spolier alert: They do not. At all.)
Arestrup and Rahim’s reprise of their warped father-son bond from 2009’s A Prophet suggests that these performers should form a permanent double act, but it’s Dequenne who’s this based-on-a-true-story movie’s MVP. The way the Rosetta star goes from quiet suffocation to mental breakdown is nothing short of revelatory; watch that single-shot close-up in which a car-ride sing-along slowly becomes a crying jag, and you’ll be convinced she may be the best European actor of her generation. It’s a near-perfect portrait of a domestic tragedy as a master-and-servant psychodrama, one that leaves catastrophic collateral damage in its wake.
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