‘Father Of My Children’ heartbreaking

LIZ BRAUN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:00 PM ET

Gregoire is an overworked filmmaker first seen on his cell phone, a device he wields like a special appendage.

He continues his work day on the phone as he drives home, talking budgets and negatives with his film colleagues even as he rushes to get to dinner with his children. Later the police stop him for speeding and then take away his car because he's now lost all his points, but there's nothing in his attitude or his mood to suggest that this is particularly extraordinary.

Gregoire is living in a state of chaos that's anxiety-provoking just to witness.

Yet he's unflappable. The charming Gregoire (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) plays happily with his beautiful children and is obviously devoted to his wife Sylvia (Chiara Caselli). He works far too much, but it's fascinating work, and as a film producer he is also a sort of mentor, problem solver and father figure to all of his associates.

This is the busy world of Father of My Children, a heartbreaking fable about life, legacy and the way men define themselves through their work.

Gregoire's work is both time-consuming and financially risky, and early on in the story it's obvious that he is facing an uphill battle with money.

The film lab says Gregoire's company, Moon Films, owes them a million Euro.

There's talk of selling his catalogue, but Gregoire refuses. That, he says, will wipe out any evidence of all the work he's done. Still, there are millions more in debt to settle, and Gregoire is running out of ideas. He goes from hopeful to distracted, and begins to sink into despair.

Wisely, Gregoire's wife Sylvia reminds him that the financial side of life is not the most important. He has a wonderful family and a long list of directors whose brilliant work he has championed. But things change, and tragedy alters the story's focus to Sylvia and the children.

And those bright, cultured, sophisticated and charming children seem written specifically to cause North American parents to wilt with jealousy and child-rearing guilt. Through their wonderful performances, young actors Alice de Lencquesaing, Alice Gautier and Manelle Driss suggest that French children are perfect. It's depressing, actually.

The charismatic filmmaker at the centre of Father of My Children is loosely based on a real person, the late French producer Humbert Balsan, and it's likely that some of the filmmakers in the movie are likewise based on actual directors. Balsan was a champion of women directors, and helped finance writer/director Mia Hansen-Love's first film. Father of My Children is an homage to the man and to his devotion to the art they all created together.

Father of My Children is in French, with English subtitles. The movie opens Thursday in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

(This film is rated PG)

liz.braun@sunmedia.ca


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