There is no horror quite like the murderous rage of someone you once loved. If you ever had anything similar in your life, then consider Custody, Xavier Legrand’s explosive separation drama, as homeopathic remedy. It will gut-punch your breath away in its raw depiction of human relationships beyond salvation, and offer an understanding – if not a solution.
A couple is divorcing. They have two children, a daughter that is 18, and a son that is 11, the subject of the custody hearing. The pace starts slow and steady, mundane even, but there is a distinct rattle of pure menace in any and every cordial exchange Denis Ménochet’s character (as the father) has with others, a corrupt sincerity, a false pliancy that buys its way into an unobservant mind, playing tricks with it, bending it the way it needs it bent.
The path of his intent becomes clearer with every chess move he makes with his son (extraordinary, mind-blowing performance by Thomas Gioria), a human bridge to his true prey, the lover who spurned him (a delicately powerful Léa Drucker). The family, the audience, and the perpetrator himself, held hostage by a devastating inability to let go of control.
It takes a diegetic outsider, a silent witness, to cut the bloodied cord.
One of the few films out there with enough guts to shatter the audience with the actual intensity of a violence done by the closest of people, and the inner distance to reality it creates.