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  • 12A
  • Drama
  • 2009

Father Of My Children

Father Of My Children

Synopsis

Mia Hansen-Love (All Is Forgiven) writes and directs this understated drama of two halves in which a filmmaker calls 'cut' but his family plays on

About

Mia Hansen-Love's Father Of My Children is a film of two interrelated, but nonetheless separate halves. In the first, we watch independent film producer Gregoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) giving his all for the cinema that he lives, breathes and loves. Permanently glued to his phone and always juggling multiple international projects, he has a loving wife Sylvia (Chiara Caselli) and three daughters, but it is his catalogue of films - films that he has carefully nurtured from their infancy and supported to their maturation - that he regards as his real children, and his legacy. His main currency is charm, which is just as well given the massive debts piling all round him - but charm can get you only so far, and Gregoire cannot go on running on empty.

A dramatic change of circumstances shifts the focus of the film's second half onto the family neglected, marginalised and abandoned by Gregoire, as Sylvia and eldest daughter Clemence (played by Louis-Do de Lencquesaing's real-life daughter Alice) struggle to work out their own place in Gregoire's life (as well as his in theirs) and begin also to take a more direct interest in his work.

With these two halves, Father Of My Children establishes a conversation between film and life, as a real (or real-seeming) family is caught in the shadow of the "cinema de papa", in precisely the sort of non-sensational arthouse film that Gregoire himself would have been proud to add to his slate, alongside the other films whose posters and screenplays decorate his Parisian office and whose titles (The Dream, Ultimatum, Nothing to Declare, The Journey is the Destination, The Fracture, Families Perchance, The Heritage) seem to mirror the vicissitudes of his own lifestory.

The fact that Gregoire's story has been freely adapted from the biography of Humbert Balsan, the real-life producer who mentored Hansen-Love in the early stages of her own career, makes Father Of My Children itself seem yet another illegitimate child of an absent filmmaking father. Hansen-Love figures something of herself within the film in the persons of the adolescent Clemence, defining herself against Gregoire, and of Arthur (played, significantly, by Hansen-Love's brother Igor), an up-and-coming screenwriter/director whose career Gregoire is shaping.

Yet for all its sophistication, Father Of My Children remains a subtle and engaging family drama whose key concerns - absence, memory, continuity, and the light that shines through the darkness - just happen also to be amongst the constitutive preoccupations of cinema itself. Hansen-Love and her cast make quality filmmaking look effortless - even as the story that they unfold drives home the often insurmountable obstacles to financing and distributing intimate, artful films just like this.

Still, as Doris Day sings over the closing credits, "Que sera sera." No matter how fragile and beleaguered the state of the independent movie sector, there will always be more children - and more films.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Chiara Caselli, Alice De Lencquesaing
  • Producer: Philippe Martin

In a nutshell

Love and loss go to the movies in this obliquely artful tale of a family split (like the film itself) down the middle.

by Anton Bitel

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