Thursday, May 09, 2013

“You Will Be My Son” – Movie Review



In the final session for the Spring Semester of my movie class, we saw a French drama, “You Will Be My Son”.


When a winemaker overlooks his son for a promotion by hiring an outsider, will their familial and professional relationships survive?


Paul may be a prize-winning winemaker, but he certainly won’t be winning any Father Of The Year awards any time soon – in general, he’s just a mean old S.O.B. He constantly mistreats Martin, his only son and one of his employees, by berating him, publicly humiliating him and insisting he is unfit for this business. When Francois, Paul’s long-time trusted estate manager, is given a fatal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, he informs his employer that the doctors’ prognosis is rather grim – six months left to live, at the very best. When Martin shows interest in being Francois’ replacement, Paul merely scoffs at the idea, informing his son that he believes Martin to be completely unqualified for the position.

Philippe, Francois’ son, leaves his job at a prestigious California winery in order to return to France so that he may spend as much time as possible with his ailing father during his last days. During the visit, he meets with Paul, who is impressed with Philippe’s knowledge of both the technical and business aspects of winemaking. Soon, Paul looks upon Philippe as the son he didn’t have but should have had and deserved to have. As time goes on, Paul sees that Philippe would be better at handling Francois’ job than Martin, so Paul eventually offers him a permanent job to replace Francois, both humiliating and infuriating Martin.

Unknown to everyone else, Paul ultimately winds up meeting with his lawyer in order to discuss the possibility of actually adopting Philippe. The lawyer advises Paul that it is legally possible to do so, even though Philippe is an adult, but there may be obstacles in the form of Martin and both of Philippe’s parents. Nevertheless, Paul instructs the lawyer to begin the process; Philippe, however is now torn – while flattered by the opportunity to eventually inherit the winery and associated vineyard from Paul, he has simultaneously been offered a very lucrative position with a wine distributor. But once Martin learns of Paul’s plans to squeeze him out of the family business, can he somehow manage to hold on to his job while maintaining a relationship with his father at the same time?


Although I described “You Will Be My Son” as a drama, its genre could just as easily be characterized as a thriller. This is due to the fact that the story takes an unusual turn later on which makes it particularly interesting and surpassing what might otherwise be considered merely a soap opera. Believe me, no one will ever confuse this with other wine-related movies, especially “Sideways”. If you’re going to make any comparisons, think of it as being like that old TV show “Falcon Crest” with a French twist.

The screenplay does a particularly good job in providing well-drawn characters with distinct personas and unique traits. Martin is seen by Paul as a total loser, but Martin is anything but – married to Alice, a beautiful and intelligent woman who sees through her father-in-law’s manipulations and knows her husband as the skilled, knowledgeable professional that he truly is; by including the character of Alice, the filmmaker is basically telling us, “Don’t buy Paul’s side of the story because Martin isn’t as much of a chump as Paul might lead you to believe he is”. Other nice touches in the screenplay include the ever-raised stakes and the distinctions between the way Paul is experienced by strangers publicly versus how he behaves with family privately.

Following the screening, Gilles Legrand, the director and co-screenwriter of “You Will Be My Son”, was interviewed by our instructor. Legrand discussed his screenplay writing process and mentioned that he was initially working out of an office he shared with other writers. At one point in writing the screenplay, he got stuck and began going over the story with one of his officemates, a woman who was primarily a novelist. After making some rather trenchant observations and contributing several suggestions about both character development and story structure, Legrand invited her to co-write the script with him; she accepted his offer and wound up with her first screenplay credit with this film.


You Will Be My Son (2011) on IMDb 6.8/10239 votes

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