French actor Niels Arestrup's career spans almost 40 years. He has worked with such directors as Alain Resnais, Chantal Akerman and Claude Sautet. But it's Jacques Audiard's films of the last decade -- The Beat That My Heart Skipped
(2005), A Prophet
(2009) -- in which he plays stern father figures that really put him on the map. With that unmistakable white mane and stop-in-your-tracks stare, he is also fantastic as an overbearing father in Gilles Legrand's You Will Be My Son
family drama set in the Bordeaux wine region of France.
Paul de Marseul (Arestrup) is an owner of prestigious winery. He has a dilemma. He really doesn't like the idea of his meek son Martin (Lorant Deutsch) taking over the business that's been in the family for 11 generations. Everything about his son displeases him, including his prickly wife Alice (Anne Marivin). It's not that Martin is bad at his job. And he tries his best to please his father. He might be a good businessman, but he doesn't have the nose for wine. Some things you just can't learn in books.
The perfect son comes in the form of Philippe (Nicolas Bridet), who is summoned in from Napa Valley because his father François (Patrick Chesnais), who's been the estate manager for Paul, is dying of cancer. Paul immediately starts to groom suave, charming Philippe as his heir in plain sight of everyone. When confronted with opposition, he snarls, "It's a vineyard not a charity." This attitude puts Martin, Alice and even François in disbelief.
The unfolding tragedy here is of Shakespearean proportions. Supported by a great
cast, including nebbish Deutsch as a
never-good-enough-in-his-father's-eyes son, Marivin as a supportive
wife and a father-in-law defying, sexy hothead, and Bridet as
the-son-you-never-had-but-always-wished, You Will Be My Son
becomes an entertaining psychological thriller by the end. But the film belongs to the singular ruthlessness of Arestrup. His domineering presence makes it very easy to hate him.
At 64, Arestrup is enjoying the limelight as he never has before. I love it when that happens to great actors.You Will Be My Son
played as part of Rendez-vous with French Cinema this spring and is now playing at The Paris Theatre in New York
. A national rollout will follow. Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions can be found at www.dustinchang.com
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