Grégoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) has everything going for him. A wife whom he loves, three delightful children, a job that excites him. He's a film producer. Discovering filmmakers, accompanying films that correspond to his idea of cinema, open and free and close up to life – that's his reason for living. His vocation. Grégoire finds total fulfillment in his work, to which he dedicates almost all his time and energy. Hyperactive, he never stops, except for weekends, which he spends with his family in the countryside. These interludes are as precious as they are fragile. Grégoire's confident bearing and charm have won him admirers everywhere. He seems invincible. And yet, his prestigious production company, Moon Films, is unstable. Too many films produced, too many risks taken, too many debts. The dangers become clearer. But Grégoire continues to keep moving forward, no matter the cost. Just where will this headlong rush lead him? One day, he's obliged to face up to reality. A word hovers: failure.
Mia Hansen’s Løve’s Father of My Children is a profound film grounded in the minutiae of the everyday. Clearly delineated into two parts, it serves as a before and after of a turning point that is barely foreshadowed but then keenly felt. Life, which is told with naturalistic ease in this French release, never makes logical sense, it’s just a succession of moments and emotions that go from one to the next, whether with the harried mood of an adult or the carefree pleasure of a child.
As a film producer, Gregoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) is comparatively low-key – no screaming tantrums, no status spats, no appeals to crude commercialism. A Paris-based independent, he runs his production house out of a ramshackle warren of rooms, although his own contribution is mainly done on the run, juggling calls while driving or on a train; even in his office he feels compelled to stand at his desk or pace about.
His production slate – a drama shooting in Sweden with a demanding Scandinavian tyrant directing, a period drama lensing in French countryside where the actors are bickering, and a looming Parisian shoot from a South Korean crew that has swelled from 8 to 18 – are slowly but steadily bleeding him dry. Accountants and lawyers come for coffee, pass on bad news, and go, but Gregoire is calmly accepting. The film leaves you to decide whether he is the epitome of cool or a staunch denialist, but it’s a clear depiction of the realities that those who love to make films face: sooner or later you’ll be cornered.
Gregoire wants to no more sell his catalogue of titles than let down his Italian wife, Sylvia (Chiara Castelli), and their three daughters, the teenage Clemence (Alice de Lencquesaing, Louis-Do’s real life daughter) and the younger Valentine (Alice Gautier) and Billie (Manelle Driss). Their scenes together, whether in the family’s Paris apartment or rural chateau, have an unfussy lived-in quality that doesn’t call attention to their interaction. Hansen-Løve lets you feel the rhythm of the family, and once it’s established you notice crucial moments, such as a visit to the ruins of Knights Templar castle where Gregoire’s impromptu history lesson about their mercantile strength becomes a parable for his own business affairs. (In a wonderful touch, his children run off to explore and essentially ignore his speech.)
Some of these scenes only truly register in the film’s second half, after a transformative sequence of but a few seconds length. It changes both the mood of the film and the way we look at the characters. It brings the children, particularly Clemence, to the fore, and the observations and changes that the filmmaker salts through their days come with the same calm demeanour (Hansen-Løve may have taken her tone, but not her technique, from Kieslowski’s Blue). You’ll never have a sense of your life, notes the Father of My Children, until you’ve started a new one. And you won’t truly appreciate the film, until you’ve taken it in and given it time to take seed. Inception celebrates the manufactured reality, Father of My Children the true one.