My personal finale for the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2012 is Gilles Legrand’s Tu seras mon fils (You Will Be My Son). It’s a story of blind ambition and abandonment which ultimately brings forth a catastrophe.
The movie opens with a scene of Martin de Marseul (Lorànt Deutsch) alone, watching a coffin entered a crematorium oven and dryly commenting afterwards that the deceased would not have appreciated having the remains mixed with the woods, as he didn’t like woody notes. Without any notes on the screen, the viewers are transported back to a period before the incident happens, to a passionate and ambitious winemaker, Paul de Marseul (Niels Arestrup) who is reluctant to pass the control over to his son, Martin. He constantly derides Martin as being clueless and not having the nose nor the palate of a winemaker. When his steward François (Patrick Chesnais) is diagnosed with a terminal pancreatic cancer, his son Philippe (Nicholas Bridet) returns home. Compared to Martin’s awkward and timid demeanour, Philippe is more easygoing and has all the elements of a future winemaker. Fresh from working in a vineyard in California, he has travelled to other places such as Chile and New Zealand, which presumably adds to his knowledge and experience. Paul is keen to groom Philippe to take over his vineyard, bypassing his own son and even sacrificing the feelings of his trusted friend and steward, François.
Tu seras mon fils is a conventional story-telling movie, without any cinematic quirkiness that often accompanies French films. There’s a foreboding undercurrent as the movie progresses – on whether Paul will succeed in bringing his plan into fruition. Arestrup is great in portraying a loveless, conniving father, whilst Deutsch also succeeds in creating a character who is so clueless, and almost hopeless. The main characters are quite mono-dimensional – it’s hard to find other sides to Paul de Marseul’s character beyond his sinister façade, and it is also equally difficult to find any saving qualities from Martin de Marseul’s character. All we see is a son who craves for his father’s love – and we can only pity him for it.
I enjoy the movie – even when the ending is still quite unexpected, although hinted at the beginning. It’s a powerful au revoir to the Alliance Française French Film Festival, and I can’t wait for it to return next year!