Film

'The Father of My Children': Drowning in Film

Writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve's deceptively astute drama The Father of My Children begins in an easy world of floating urbanity, but it doesn't take long for the cost of entering that world to become clear.


The Father of My Children

Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Cast: Chiara Caselli, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Alice de Lencquesaing, Alice Gautier, Manelle Driss, Eric Elmosnino, Sandrine Dumas, Dominique Frot
Rated: R
Studio: IFC
Year: 2010
US date: 2010-05-28 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer

If you didn't love him, you would have to hate him. French film producer Gregoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) makes the management of a daily grind of crises, ranging from minor to explosive, look no more difficult than the picking up of a phone. A businessman whose financial worth would be impossible to evaluate, since his work and value seems all contained in his head, Gregoire walks briskly through the streets of Paris and his bustling office, taking one phone call after the next about his far-flung projects, looking the quintessence of chic.

Of course, it isn't that simple.

Writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve's deceptively astute drama The Father of My Children begins in what seems an easy, urbane world. Gregoire hops into his car (a Volvo station wagon, no less) and drives out to the family's country home, juggling two cell phones and chain-smoking, his voice an even murmur as he puts out fires with a light, utterly reasonable charm. At the home, a quaint little estate with an old Templar chapel nearby, Gregoire spends quality time with his extremely understanding Italian wife, Sylvia (the magnificent Chiara Caselli), and their three daughters.

For a time, Hansen-Løve makes you think that maybe he can have it all, the soul-satisfying work of bringing great art to light, the comfortable lifestyle of a born gentleman, and a warmly loving family who don't mind that he's barely present, a ghost on a cell phone. The country home and the city apartment are decorated with style but warmth, books and plants everywhere. Instead of slumping in front of sitcoms at night, the family gathers to watch the two youngest girls (who seem to have picked up all their father's charm and then some) act out their own version of the evening news broadcast in a way that's so winning even Clemence (Alice de Lencquesaing), their grumpy adolescent, forgets herself and laughs contentedly while nestled into her father.

But the crises are coming closer and closer together. It becomes clear that Gregoire's company, Moon Films, is heavily indebted to a long list of antsy creditors who aren't assuaged by his planned slate of problematic art films. Sylvia explodes at him for constantly talking business even while they're on vacation. Even Gregoire's blithely winning ways appear to have their limits.

Under his mellow calm and handsomely tousled appearance lies a dark panic that makes itself more apparent as the debts are tallied up. A film lab demands a million euros in back payment. Meanwhile, an over-budget film being shot up in Sweden by a director of Kubrickian procrastination is dangerously draining the coffers, though Gregoire maintains that it's all worth it, because the director's a genius.

Gregoire's juggling act would seem more of a lark if he hadn't clearly sunk his entire life into this venture. He quips to a friend that there's "No time to see movies!" not long after joking, "Maybe I'll jump out a window." A true believer, he's in it for the love of the cinema and the head-clearing rush of having to make it look exquisite on a shoestring. When the unusually attentive Clemence (much of the film's latter sections observe her observing the world) sits through a retrospective of the works of one of the directors her father championed and is moved beyond words at their particularly gnomic Central Asian "realism," it's as though she finally understands something about Gregoire's pell-mell life and what it was all for.

That last consideration, what it was all for, that takes on more pressing urgency as the true costs of Gregoire's choices make themselves clear. Hansen-Løve's writing is as limpid as her filming, and she allows her actors generous room to explore their roles without once becoming overindulgent. The film knows that nobody truly cares about those behind the scenes, but that there are other kinds of artistry that don't involve a pen or a camera, but simply a phone and a warm, soothing manner. "When he was in front of me," one director says about Gregoire, "my anger disappeared." One could say the same thing about this film.

9
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.