Custody

One of the things I loved about Kramer vs. Kramer is that from the beginning, we’re on Dustin Hoffman’s side in the custody battle. Yet in the 3rd act, we realize Meryl Streep has some very valid points. This movie would’ve worked better if we didn’t know who to believe in this custody battle, until the 3rd act (which is a powerful one). It’s also rather frustrating to see various characters make bad decisions that didn’t seem realistic. Although I hate saying something about this isn’t realistic, because it showed many things about custody cases and domestic violence in very authentic ways.

The cast delivers terrific performances. An 11-year-old Julien Beeson (Thomas Gloria, in a strong film debut) has to act bratty at times, sad other times, and scared. His father Antoine (Denis Menochet of Inglourious Basterds) is terrific, and we watch him slowly getting angrier as his ex-wife (Lea Drucker) seems to be jerking him around on things regarding visitation.

Director Xavier Legrand got an Oscar nomination for his 2013 short “Just Before Losing Everything (also with Drucker and Menochet), and it has similar themes.

Legrand does make things predictable, and a lot of it is formulaic. The first half hour is a little slow, too. But you slowly get interested in how things start shaping up. After all, Antoine has changed. He’s moved back to town, and wants to be a good father to his kids.

There’s a subplot involving the soon to be 18-year-old daughter (Mathilde Auneveux) ditching class to spend time with her boyfriend. That doesn’t really go anywhere.

We get to see both sets of grandparents to the boy, and those are interesting scenes.

It was intense watching the tension build. My wife and I were both throwing guesses at each other as to what was going to happen, and when. It’s not that hard to guess, as we’ve seen these types of stories before. But this one is told well.

The story did need a bit more character depth. I wanted to know a bit more about a lot of things and people involved.

At the 18th birthday party, I couldn’t help but wonder if, when the daughter got onstage to sing Proud Mary with her boyfriend, if her dad was going to be pulling an Ike Turner at that same time. And the scene in the parking lot when he does show up just fills you with anxiety.

The final scene is gripping, and it ends with a door closing. It’s a scene that may stay with you for months.

3 stars out of 5.