Young French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve won the Cannes Special Jury Prize in 2009 for her sophomore film (which she wrote and directed), Father of My Children/ Le père de mes enfants. The film, inspired partially by the life of French film producer Humbert Balsan, follows the fictional character of Grégoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) who runs a small company producing art-house films, and has a loving family with supportive Italian wife Sylvia (Chiara Caselli). Behind the happy façade everything is not quite as rosy as it seems and increasing financial debt pushes Canvel to drastic action.
This French film offers a fascinating insight into the mechanics of independent filmmaking, the nitty-gritty of financing and location hunting. The role of producer is one that is frequently vilified as someone concerned with money not art and here in this film, Hansen-Løve shows the dedication and passion of small production companies, like the film’s fictional Moon Films, that enable less commercially appealing films to be made. Canvel may not be a very good businessman, but his commitment to filmmaking is unquestionable. Louis-Do de Lencquesaing imbues Canvel with charisma, giving the character instantly likeable, which makes the slow crushing of his spirit by his financial woes all the more affecting.
Along with the family of colleagues that Canvel has built up at his company, the film also shows the idyllic home life that Canvel shares with his wife and children- the increasingly independent eldest daughter Clémence (Alice de Lencquesaing), and two exuberant younger daughters Valentine (Alice Gautier) and Billie (Manelle Driss). These three young actresses give the film its heart. Gautier and Driss are fantastic as these two switched on, adorable youngsters. Alice de Lencquesaing, who was impressive in her small role in 2008’s Summer Hours, is compelling to watch on screen with her character’s getting its own rewarding emancipation story arc.
Father of My Children tackles a heavy subject matter without being weighed down by the topic. Hansen-Løve could have easily made this film a cry-fest, but instead focuses on the strength of the family giving us a moving and charming film, instead of an emotionally fraught one. The subtle, tender sadness of the film trumps any of its small scripting problems and certainly marks out not only the film’s young cast members but also the director as ones to watch.
Father of My Children is released in Australia on 26th August
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Cast: Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Chiara Caselli, Alice de Lencquesaing, Alice Gautier, Manelle Driss, Eric Elmosnino