The title of this French drama is figurative, but director Anne Fontaine (Dry Cleaning) approaches the psychological labyrinth of fatherhood with the cold and imperious eye Hitchcock brought to Shadow of a Doubt. Charles Berling plays a wealthy gerontologist in Versailles who's orbited by a warm and ravishing wife (Natacha Regnier), an attentive mistress (Amira Casar), and an obedient younger brother (Stephane Guillon). But the center of gravity shifts when his elderly father (erstwhile Claude Chabrol regular Michel Bouquet) suddenly reappears, having abandoned his family more than 20 years earlier to practice medicine in Africa. Though the wife finds the puckish old man charming and insightful, the doctor is unnerved by his father's detached and caustic observations about his comfortable life (“He judges you down to the bone”), and ultimately he's forced to confront the lies he maintains to insulate himself from the people around him. Fontaine and Jacques Fieschi collaborated on the screenplay, and Jocelyn Pook's chilly string score nicely evokes the menace underlying the film's plush settings. In French with subtitles. 100 min.
By J.R. Jones