Custody doesn’t do much more than plunge the audience into this hellish situation, but it shrewdly understands the bad dad’s pathetic pathology, and the film may resonate for anyone who’s grown up under the unhealthy supervision of a mean bastard. Take that as a sobering recommendation.
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Legrand's decision to leave things intentionally unclear early on so he can draw the audience into the family’s problems and consider them from various sides finally works against the third act’s cold hard facts.
Custody is concerned with the failure of process to discern human need and perversion, and Xavier Legrand rather ironically follows in the footsteps of bureaucracy by reducing people to statistics.
Knowingly blending realist grit with generic guile, this unrelentingly tense account of a fragmented family living in constant fear thoroughly merited the Best Director prize at the Venice Film Festival.
An almost unbearably-tense, no-holds-barred drive through the nightmare of domestic terrorism, Custody is a can’t-look-away hybrid of gruelling reality and heightened cinematic technique. The mix is jarring, as intended, and this wrenching, heart-stopping film illustrates domestic violence and obsession in a way that makes the fear real.
The intensity is too much to bear in the best possible way. Legrand knows exactly where to position his characters and what’s necessary to break them. It’s a steady crescendo of suspense despite his source of danger never shifting.
With Custody, Legrand has created a family drama that plays out as social realism, but it is as intense as a thriller and, with no generic get outs, far more terrifying than Kubrick's The Shining.
Legrand’s achievement — his integrity, one might say — is that he’s managed to cut to the marrow of the situation while remaining keenly sensitive to how such things play out in the real world.
It’s unblinking in a Dardenne-ish way and often hard to watch, with the emotional toll playing on its characters’ faces. The ending is a floorer too.
As a demonstration of slighted masculinity being given an inch, taking a mile, and chewing it up with breakneck fury, the film could hardly be more timely or disconcerting. But it understands the ignition point of rage – not just its ugly momentum.