Tu Seras Mon Fils” is one of the best French film released this year. (I also loved the infectious retro romcom “Populaire.”) Gilles Legrand (“Ridicule”) has crafted a stylish family drama, which feels like a throw back to the solid Hollywood or French Studio films of yore, a world often mined by French classicist Bertrand Tavernier. It’s as tense and engrossing as an old time psychological thriller, despite it’s glossy, sensual aesthetic.
A clever script by Delphine de Vigan, Laure Gasparotto, and Gilles Legrand mines the sour world of familial disappointment and legacy. Its tart tone is reminiscent of Charles Spaak’s 30’s scripts for Duvivier and Grémillon.
Oft-character actor Niels Arestrup (“A Prophet”, “Our Children”) has been given a part worthy of his nuanced acting, playing the narcissistic Wine maker Paul de Marseul, with callous brio.
Disappointed in his son Martin (Lorànt Deutsch), a man with neither nose nor palate, who he’s berated for a lifetime, Paul woos the prodigal son of his dying long-time estate manager François Amelot (Patrick Chesnai).
Calling the golden boy viticulturist Philippe Amelot (Nicolas Bridet back from his job at Coppola’s vineyard to his dying father’s side, Paul offers him a partnership and all the glamorous headline catching parental love he’s withheld from Martin. Yves Angelo shoots the domian (vineyard) in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux with great specificity, establishing the estate worth thirty million euros, the graceful manor house with its cave housing a lifetime of historic vintages, and the surrounding fields. Set decorator Monica Alberte contributes perfect details of the luxurious worlds Paul commands.
The script reveals the lifetime of strategies Paul has evolved to trump his competitors, and the angst behind Paul’s bravado. A calculating man, blind to the loyalty of his friends and family, he’s determined to protect his legacy,
Martin simmers with resentment; he’s been belittled and ridiculed for a lifetime. His father blames him for his mother’s death. Deutsch gives a wry painful performance, displaying the troubled self-esteem a lifetime of parental scorn produces, illustrating the irony of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Paul can’t resist manipulating his little world. He promises Martin a chance to run the estate, yet secretly call Philippe home. Dependent on his loyal manager François, the keeper of the Vineyard’s secrets, he takes the dying man to work, and has him taste the wines, despite the doctor’s orders.
Paul puts the production of his perfect wine before everything and everyone. He courts the complex aromas, secretly sprinkles some of his father’s ashes in each vat, and can recognize a woman’s perfume across the room.
When he’s invited to receive a lifetime achievement award, he brings Phillppe, buys him a pair of shoes that represents an annual salary for workers in the Third World, and even identifies him to the papers as his son. He decides to officially adopt Philippe, to keep his name on the bottles.
Martin’s wife Alice (Anne Marivin) and Philippe’s wife Madeleine (Valérie Mairesse) eventually fight Paul to protect their men, but he seems unstoppable, a force of nature. This doubled drama of fathers and sons, braided together through several generations, serves up a delicious surprise. A MUST SEE