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Psychological Thriller With Faulty Logic – The Hollywood Reporter



French actor turned director Xavier Legrand’s fantastically carried out first function, Custody, was the sort of debut that budding filmmakers can solely dream about. After premiering in Venice in 2017, the place it gained the Silver Lion, it went on to scoop up a slew of different prizes that culminated with 4 César Awards in France, together with greatest image.

In such cases, there’s all the time a danger of a sophomore droop, although that’s not likely the time period to use to Legrand’s second film, The Successor (Le Successeur), a bleak and tormented psychological thriller that made its world premiere in competitors at San Sebastian. Let’s name it a case of swinging for the fences and hitting a foul ball that lands someplace far off within the higher tiers, a lot does this formidable and well-made however extraordinarily flawed movie miss its mark.

The Successsor

The Backside Line

Too loopy to be true.

Venue: San Sebastian Movie Pageant (Official Choice)
Solid: Marc-André Grondin, Yves Jacques, Louis Champagne, Anne-Elisabeth Bossé, Blandine Bury, Laëtitia Isambert
Director: Xavier Legrand
Screenwriters: Xavier Legrand, Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf; primarily based on the novel L’Ascendant by Alexandre Postel

1 hour 52 minutes

Tailored by Legrand and Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf from Alexandre Postel’s 2015 novel, L’Ascendant (a title that may imply each ascending and forebearer), the story takes so many sudden and typically inconceivable turns that it’s essential have an awfully excessive credulity stage to simply accept what occurs. These afraid of spoilers ought to cease studying now, as a result of it’s not possible to debate The Successor with out revealing just a few of its main twists (of which there are a minimum of 4 or 5).

The movie kicks off with a glitzy Paris trend present for the Maison Orsini, a high-profile luxurious model whose newest inventive director, Ellias (Marc-André Grondin), is making his massive bow. The present is a success, though Ellias — an excellent management freak who, each in gown and perspective, appears to be modeled on Balenciaga’s present inventive director, Demna Gvasalia — suffers from common panic assaults, which could possibly be attributed to the truth that he’s been lengthy estranged from his father, Jean-Jacques, who lives again of their native Montreal.

Whereas posing just a few days later for his first main picture shoot, Ellias learns that his dad has died of a coronary heart assault, prompting him to take every week off so he can return to Canada and take care of all the executive stuff, reminiscent of arranging the funeral and promoting the home. We by no means study why, precisely, Ellias hasn’t spoken to Jean-Jacques in a long time, and we count on to uncover some sort of childhood trauma through the journey. Certainly, in its opening scenes, the movie performs like an intimate story of a son returning house to face the demons of his previous, discovering extra about himself, and his father, within the course of.

That’s type of what occurs in The Successor, however in no way in the best way you would possibly suppose. Whereas trying round his dad’s modest bungalow within the snow-covered Montreal suburbs, Ellias comes throughout one thing odd: a locked door to the basement. He plans to present the home to a charity, and due to this fact wants to supply a full stock of what’s in it, which suggests he has to get all the way down to that basement. In the meantime, his father’s greatest and solely good friend, Dominique (Yves Jacques), reveals up on the doorstep, kindly introducing himself and hoping that he and Ellias can manage Jean-Jacques’ funeral collectively. Maybe his dad wasn’t such a foul man in spite of everything?

Wishful pondering. Quickly sufficient, Ellias will get his hand on the important thing, and what began off as a household drama about mourning shortly veers into horror movie territory when he heads down the basement stairs and discovers one other locked door, behind which lies a secret tunnel resulting in a secret room, the place a younger girl (Laëtitia Isambert) has been sequestered — clearly for a really very long time.

Ellias freaks out, which is regular. However what he does subsequent defies cause, a minimum of for many of us. Relatively than calling the cops and releasing his dad’s prisoner, he decides to cowl up the incident, assumedly to forestall his trend profession from being tarnished. This is senseless by any means: Ellias loathed his father. He seethes every time the previous man is talked about, and he’s so estranged from him that no person would ever join Ellias to such a heinous crime. And but he decides to maintain the entire thing beneath wraps.

From then on, The Successor doesn’t merely soar the shark — it jumps again within the water and rides the shark round a number of instances earlier than drowning. Extra loopy twists occur, a few of them involving the candy and sympathetic Dominique, all of them prompted by Ellias’ illogical habits and rising desperation, which reaches melodramatic ranges within the ultimate act. By that time, many a viewer could have deserted the well-known designer to the destiny he appears miserably destined for.

It’s pretty clear what Legrand is attempting to say right here: that the sins of the daddy, nevertheless monstrous, will inevitably be repeated by their offspring regardless of all the gap that’s been put between them. (The theme of abuse was on the coronary heart of Custody, which oscillated between drama and horror film tropes as properly.) The filmmaker hints at this legacy, reminiscent of in how Ellias’ studied Parisian accent slips again into Quebecois as he spends extra time again house. Grondin (C.R.A.Z.Y.) is sweet in these scenes, portraying a person bearing all the burden of his household on his shoulders, and at last not with the ability to shoulder it.

The opposite performances are robust as properly, and Legrand as soon as once more proves himself to be a stable director of actors and a sturdy technician, working with cinematographer Nathalie Durand to create a practical atmosphere that they handle to maintain till the bitter finish. How issues occur in The Successor is far much less of an issue than what occurs, and likewise why they occur. The movie makes an attempt to deal with a few of these questions, delving into the horrible historical past of depravity that poor Ellias has inherited and should resist. However the sheer unlikelihood of the story will go away many people asking one ultimate query: WTF?

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