FRIDAY, AUGUST 24, 2018 -- Divorce is not meant to be nice. That's the message that most married couples forget as they plow through court proceedings seeking the dissolution of marriage. To be sure, divorce isn't a fun undertaking in any country. French movie maker Xavier Legrand examines the custody battle between Miriam and Antoine Bessom (Lea Drucker and Denis Menochet).


Stuck in the middle are their two children Julien and Josephine (Thomas Gioria and Mathilde Auneveux) 10 and 18 years old. The movie opens in chambers with the judge (Saadia Bentaieb) reading Julien's statement as to why he wants to live with his mother and be far away from his hot tempered father. The judge points out that Julien's disposition is the only one that matters because Josephine was moving out of the house because she is eighteen and indifferent to the issue.

Antoine wants joint custody of Julien - despite the fact the boy wants nothing to do with him - because he doesn't like the behavior of his wife with her new beau. He insists that the boy needs the guidance of his father and not a stranger. For some reason the judge agrees to a point and decides on a trial period.


The proceedings quickly deteriorate from there with Antoine flipping out every chance he gets including at his parents house, where he is now staying. He is constantly at odds with himself; in constant conflict with his interpretation of a good father and husband and first rate asshole.


Unlike Joachim Lafosse's 2017 "L'economie du couple" ("After Love") which had the unhappy cohabiting until they could sell their home, here, Miriam wants to be as far from her husband as possible, going so far as to leave fake addresses and phone numbers. In "After Love", the two girls adored their father, here Julien hates and fears his father, wanting nothing to do with him. The court order duel custody is torture for him.


This is Legrand's first feature length film in the director's seat and it is a gem. It seems to be a continuation of his movie short "Avant que de tout perdre" (Just Before Losing Everything") that has Drucker and Menochet playing Miraim escaping Antoine. In that Miljan Chatelain portrays Julien; no explanation for the change in actors. That film went on to earn Legrand an Oscar Nomination for Best Live Action Film Short.


Menochet is perfect as the hulking hot tempered Antoine while Drucker portrays the wife victim to a tee. But it must be said that Gioria is terrific in his film debut.


"Custody" ("Jusqu'a la garde") is a marvelous interpretation of divorce proceedings at their absolute worst with engaging performances and tight direction by Xavier Legrand. (French with English Subtitles)   -- GRADE B+ --   GEOFF BURTON