First published in the April 2010 issue of the Hearing Times
French films are known for employing a naturalistic style that prioritises character over plot, and this is certainly true of ‘Father of my Children.’ While at times the pace feels a little slow, you gradually become more and more drawn into the world the characters inhabit and the challenges they face.
Mia Hansen-Løve’s second film is about the human cost of art, and is inspired by the life of revered French film producer Humbert Balsan, whose suicide in 2005 shocked the film world. The story is split into two parts by his death.
In the first half of the film, we see how the Balsan character (here called Grégoire) lives for his work – funding film projects he passionately believes in. Constantly fielding phone calls and attending meetings, Grégoire uses his charming, relaxed persona to hide the financial crisis his company is in. Nevertheless, he seems constantly distracted, even when he is with his wife and three daughters.
When the company’s problems get worse, Grégoire descends into a deep depression. Despite his wife’s support, the prospect of losing everything leads him to suddenly, shockingly end his life.
The second half follows Grégoire’s family as they try to pick up the pieces. His wife dedicates herself to the task of saving his company’s films, while his eldest daughter explores his work and tries to make sense of his life.
The film does not wallow in hyper-emotional scenes of grief and mourning – instead the message is that life carries on. And it is the stark normality of life after Grégoire’s death that is the most unsettling, yet realistic thing about it. Everything’s the same, but different. There is a gap, and that is Grégoire himself.
If you are looking for a fast-paced thriller, this is not the film for you. This film has it’s flaws – I felt if it had been been shorter, it would have been more effective – but it’s power is in the slow-burning way the story is told. It ends with a beautiful scene in a car that stays with you long after the credits roll.
You can view a trailer for ‘Father of my Children’ here.