Louis-Do de Lencquesaing dotes on Alice Gautier (left) and Manelle Driss.
THE FATHER OF MY CHILDREN (Mia Hansen-Løve). 106 minutes. Subtitled. Opens today (Thursday, November 4) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. See Times. Rating: NNNN
There are literally two sides to Mia Hansen-Løve's The Father Of My Children.
The division arrives at precisely the middle of the movie, when the focus abruptly shifts from one story to another. It's like flipping over an LP - remember those? - to find a totally different musical style on the other side.
It's a daring move, particularly because the first half is relatively fast-paced and bouncy, following a Parisian film producer (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) who juggles work and family as he tries to keep his faltering company afloat. Grégoire spars good-naturedly with financiers, accountants and filmmakers and then comes home to his wife (Chiara Caselli) and three daughters, on whom he dotes.
The second half is decidedly more diffuse and scattered, as though the narrative has come unmoored. But - without giving anything away - that's how it has to be. The story's complex emotional progression requires that sense of drift. Spaces we've seen in the first half of the film take on different meanings in the second, as we recalibrate ourselves to their new context. It's quiet, unshowy and devastating. I'm not entirely sure the upbeat musical choices work as well as Hansen-Løve seems to think they do, but that's really my only problem.
Consumer advisory: The Father Of My Children is the second of Mongrel Media's multi-platform releases, which means it's simultaneously opening for a limited run at TIFF Bell Lightbox and streaming on Netflix Canada today, and coming to DVD Tuesday. See it in any format you like.