The Father of My Children

3 out of 5 stars
The Father of My Children

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

The late film producer Humbert Balsan—who shepherded work by Claire Denis, James Ivory, Bla Tarr and others—is the acknowledged model for Grgoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), the charismatic center of this affecting family drama. He runs a seemingly thriving production company and has a family who loves him despite the long hours and constant business calls. But some problems that were once easily ignored now threaten to overwhelm his work and life.

Writer-director Mia Hansen-Lve is telling two stories here: The first is a concentrated, slow-burn tale of personal self-destruction, while the second is an anecdotal, perceptive study of a family dealing with tragedy. Grgoire’s section is gripping, but contrived: Hansen-Lve relies too strongly on De Lencquesaing’s magnetism to patch over holes in the character’s psychology, and the fateful decision he makes at the film’s midpoint feels like a cheap transitional ploy. But when The Father of My Children shifts focus to Grgoire’s wife (Caselli) and children (the eldest is beautifully played by De Lencquesaing’s actual daughter, Alice), Hansen-Lve’s hand steadies, and she reveals a true talent for intimate, behavioral observation. These small moments accumulate and build to a moving final scene somewhat tempered by the fact that this is only half a great movie.—Keith Uhlich

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