Wednesday, 20 January 2010


We begin this early Louis Feuillade drama at the end of a custodial hearing. Members of the jury leave the courthouse as the child in question sits outside being comforted by the mother who has lost legal guardianship of him. As he is literally torn from his mother’s arms, it becomes clear how strong a relationship the two share. Now privileged in his new home, he sits alone, bored by every possible distraction. As a treat, his father takes him to see his grandmother, but the timing couldn’t be more inopportune as the boy’s mother just happens to be visiting at the same time. Mother takes advantage of the situation, sneaking her son back to her house where she works full-time as a seamstress. Meanwhile, father reports the case to the police, but the officious language of the authorities seems to be no match for the heartfelt pleas of a young child.

From the title alone (the French title uses the word ‘possession’ for custody), it is clear that Feuillade wants us to accept the incredulity of the son’s status as a mere legal entity. The child is bounced from parent to parent as if no-one is concerned for the child’s emotional needs. On the minus side, the film often becomes farcical under its technical constraints. When the police come knocking on the mother’s door, her solution is to hide her son under a small table already in frame. On the whole, a touching story, but not a memorable film.

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