Many men carry a large load of pain, anger, and disappointment regarding their fathers. Some were distant and aloof figures never there for their sons when they were needed. Others were too present, large and looming, with nothing good to say about their boys who were seen as losers. Good fathers loved their sons, felt a close and emotional connection to them, and tried to pass on to them the wisdom they had accrued over the years.
It is hard to make a formidable film about fathers and sons due to the difficulty of the subject matter. French writer and director Gilles Legrand has created a potent drama with compelling characters who shed light from all directions on two sets of fathers and sons.
Paul de Marseul (Niels Arestrup) is a charismatic, domineering, and wildly successful vineyard estate owner who is known for bringing to market some of the best wine in the world. Expecting Wanting to have an heir who can take over for him and run the business, Paul is convinced that his grown son Martin (Lorant Deutsch) will not be able to handle the job due to his ample character flaws. The only thing his father likes about this socially awkward young man is his sexy wife, Alice (Anne Marivin).
When Francois (Patrick Chesnais), his long-standing and reliable estate manager, is diagnosed with a terminal pancreatic cancer, his son Philippe (Nicholas Bridet) quits his California winery job and flies home to be with his father. Seeing this confident and responsible young man in action, Paul asks him to handle this year's harvest. When he does it with total success, he decides to offer Philippe a partnership in the whole operation. Stunned by this development, Philippe queries his father and the response surprises and saddens him.
The performances in You Will Be My Son bring out all the emotional fireworks in the drama. Niels Arestrup ably conveys the tyrant in Paul and the intense disapproval of everything about his son. Lorant Deutsch as Martin tries very hard to prove himself to his father but misses the mark by a mile especially after Philippe shows up. Many men in the audience will be familiar with the humiliations suffered by Martin whereas others will find themselves identifying with Paul and the importance of the family legacy. In the end, we see how both sets of fathers and sons are deeply wounded by the high expectations they have for one another.
Special features on the DVD include deleted scenes; and an interview with Lorànt Deutsch and director Gilles Legrand.
Screened at the Rendev-Vous with French Cinema 2013, Film Society of Lincoln Center Walter Reade Theater.