An almost unbearably-tense, no-holds-barred drive through the nightmare of domestic terrorism, „Custody“ is a can’t-look-away hybrid of gruelling reality and heightened cinematic technique. The mix is jarring, as intended, and this wrenching, heart-stopping film illustrates domestic violence and obsession in a way that makes the fear real. Yet the director also cites „The Shining“ and „Kramer Vs. Kramer“ amongst his influences, and they’re easily identified here too. This is a dynamic feature debut from France’s Xavier Legrand.
The film starts at a magistrate’s court, where Antoine and his wife Miriam, with their representatives, are engaged in a bitter custody battle. Somebody is lying to the judge, who makes an abrupt decision with far-reaching consequences. As Antoine starts to exercise his parental rights over the young boy – to the child’s obvious dread – „Custody“ is barely watchable: the distress shown by young actor Gioria is anxiety-inducing and almost too raw and real for a film. But all the while, Menochet’s Antoine is beginning to reveal himself, and it’s a familiar portrait to anyone who has ever encountered obsession and domestic violence.
Fionnuala Halligan, Chief Film Critic, Screen Daily