The grapes of wrath: Niels Arestrup commands the screen as a wine grower who is ashamed of his effete son.
Gilles Legrand serves up a dark and sumptuous slice of immersive family drama which offers a riveting dissection of the complexities of fatherhood and paternal expectation. The father in question is overpowering ogre Paul de Marseul (Niels Arestrup) whose omnipotent display of authoritarian masculinity is at complete odds with that of wimpish wallflower Martin (Lorant Deutsch) his dutifully passive only son and potential heir to Paul’s beloved vineyard and wine empire.
Martin’s efforts to develop a loving relationship with his emotionally reticent and gravely embittered father fall short. Paul takes great pleasure in highlighting his son’s flaws in a constant emasculating verbal diatribe attacking everything from his occasional stutter to his sexual virility. Martin longs to impress his father, but his lacklustre presence in the sophisticated world of wine leaves an increasingly aggravated Paul wanting to haul in a replacement heir.
Enter dashing young playboy Philippe (Nicolas Bridet). Visiting his terminally ill father, François (Patrick Chesnais), Paul’s long-standing friend and key wine maker, the stylish and spontaneous Philippe appears to be the epitome of superior machismo. Paul is immediately smitten with Philippe, viewing him as a more deserving and knowledgeable successor to the Marseul empire.
In his desire to leave a lasting, more powerful legacy, Paul embarks on a Vertigo-esque quest to create ‘the ideal Marseul’, developing an unhealthy fixation with Philippe and further alienating his own son, leading to devastating consequences.
The film’s title, You Will Be My Son, alludes to Paul’s vain endeavor to morph Martin into a more impressive specimen of masculinity, coupled with his attempts to solve what he perceives to be a genetic puzzle by claiming Philippe for his own. The opposing juxtapositions of masculinity present an interesting visual dynamic. In terms of physical stature alone, Arestrup commands the screen as the deliciously detestable Paul, compared to Deutsch’s intentionally gaunt and defeated Martin.
The film provokes an interesting discussion of fatherhood using wine as an analogy. Paul tenderly nurtures his yield, giving it time to grow and ferment, showing his crops the kind of TLC Martin can only dream of. The theme of growth and fruition serves to illustrate the decay and demise of Paul’s own relationships.
Rarely does a drama with such subtle plotting and pacing create such edge-of-the-seat tension. We eagerly await Martin’s ‘swan moment’, willing him the courage to stand up to Paul. And as events reach fever pitch, the climactic confrontation between the two does not disappoint.
*** READER OFFER! See You Will Be My Son at the cinema this weekend and you'll enjoy a free glass of vintage wine. Cheers! ***
Spot the wine metaphor. Will this be a fine vintage or a sour grape?
The grapes of wrath never tasted so juicy.
An acid drama which leaves a deliciously bitter aftertaste.