TU SERAS MON FILS/ YOU WILL BE MY SON. Starring Neils Arestrup, Lorant Deutsch and Patrick Chesnais. Directed by Gilles Legrand. 102 minutes. Rated M. (Mature themes, sexual references and coarse language.)
An impressive French drama. Set in the beautiful and fruitful Provence countryside, a vineyards town, this is a family story as the title suggests.
It can be said that those tempted to see the film principally because of the vines, the harvests, the production of the wine – and the tasting and descriptions of the taster – will be satisfied. The audience will really feel as if they have been living the French tradition and its modern developments.
But, the family…
Paul is the patriarch, from a long line of wine producers. He is played by Niels Arestrup who has been making a strong impression in recent years and in his senior years with performances as different from the prisoner in Un Prophete and the grandfather in War Horse. Paul lives for his wines. They fields and vines are his kingdom. But, his son, Martin. Not only does he not like him. He despises him, putting him down as often as he can, meanly, sometimes in pettiness, but always with the intention that his son will not succeed him even though he wants an heir from Martin and his wife (who can stand up to the old man).
The complication comes with another father and son. Francois (Patrick Chesnais) has been Paul’s manager for many years, with skilled knowledge and experience of all aspects of wine. He is a confidant of Paul but can never be his equal. Francois’ son, Philippe, has been working in vineyards in California. He has developed many skills himself and is not lacking in confidence. When his father becomes fatally ill, he returns home.
While he has been Martin’s friend, he finds himself being asked by Paul to do more and more for him. It is clear that, in the words of the title, Paul is indicating to Philippe, ‘you will be my son’ and acts accordingly.
How can this be resolved? Not In the way we might have expected, so that there is a highly dramatic ending which we (morally uncomfortably) will sympathise with.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out November 1, 2012.