‘You Will Be My Son’
Director: Gilles Legrand
Stars: Niels Arestrup, Lorànt Deutsch, Patrick Chesnais, Nicolas Bridet
Rating: 4 (out of 5) Globes
A very good film about a very bad dad, “You Will Be My Son” is set in the vineyards of Southwestern France, where wine is without mercy — and so are the people. Paul de Marseul (Niels Arestrup, of “A Prophet”) is a celebrated vintner. His son Martin (Lorant Deutsch), Paul observes, has an “ear” for winemaking — meaning he has no nose or palate. When Paul’s valued estate manager, Francois (Patrick Chesnais) develops pancreatic cancer and is given six months to live, Martin believes he will become his father’s right hand man.
However, Martin is largely inept in Paul’s eyes and given to churlish spirits. When Francois’ experienced son, Philippe (Nicolas Bridet), returns home to his father after working at a vineyard in California, Paul wants Philippe to take care of the harvest and vinification. Naturally, Philippe has his father’s gift for winemaking, which excites Paul.
Early on in “You Will Be My Son,” it establishes that Paul cares more for his shoes than Martin. One could, appropriately, have a drinking game when de Marseul pere stares icy daggers at de Marseul fils: at the winery’s broken sorting table, when the bottles’ labels are crooked, and even when Martin suggests a fruity red has a floral note. Martin is certainly demoralized, but he becomes even more so when Francois’ prodigal son returns and usurps his place at the vineyard.
The rivalry between sons escalates not only as Paul takes Philippe under his wing, but also to Paris, where he treats Philippe like his own son, and soon makes him an offer that he may not be able to refuse. How Philippe’s parents respond to their child’s opportunity leads to the film’s satisfying denouement.
The title “You Will Be My Son” is as much a command as a statement, as Paul will stop at nothing to get what he wants. And a story, recounted early on, about how Paul handled a death in a winery vat, suggests just how amoral he is. Arestrup, all entitlement and desire is absolutely fantastic here, and the role fits this fine character actor as well as Paul’s luxury suits and shoes.
Although a dream sequence involving Martin drowning in a vat is unnecessary, writer/director Gilles Legrand’s film is otherwise absorbing throughout. “You Will Be My Son” is a delicious drama about knowing one’s place, and about making sure everyone gets what they deserve, whatever the cost.