×

Film Review: ‘Too Close to Our Son’

A noir with a twist, in which an entitled couple go to extraordinary lengths to sideline the femme fatale who’s their adopted son’s biological mother.

With:
Sylvie Testud, Gregory Gadebois, Mathilde Bisson, Zacharie Chasseriaud, John Arnold, Pascal Ternisien, Thomas Doret, Rodolphe Conge, Florence Janas, Stephane Colombe, Emilie van Wormhoudt, Patrice Regnier, Cinzia Calabrese, Emmanuelle Calvez.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3811428/reference

A driven investigative magistrate goes overboard in protecting her adopted son from discovering his biological mother in Yves Angelo’s engrossing if exaggerated psychological noir, “Too Close to Our Son.” Technically flawless and expertly played, especially by Mathilde Bisson as the courtesan-like nemesis, the pic excels at making its characters immediately fascinating. But between the clever opening and the taut finale, there’s an overextended middle filled with too many stupid moves by ostensibly intelligent characters. Still, “Too Close” is an enjoyable ride that didn’t deserve to disappear after a late September opening.

The inelegant English-lingo title isn’t likely to help the film’s offshore chances: The original translates to “Nearest to the Sun,” with none of the wordplay between “son” and “sun” that exists in English. And there’s plenty of both, since the movie is set in the Mediterranean port of Toulon, which is where we meet Juliette (Bisson), at a beach cafe on the phone with her lover, Pierre (John Arnold), sitting nearby with his wife. Furious at her brazenness, he tells her they’re through; she taunts him saying that’s not possible. Shortly after, he offs himself.

The law is on to Juliette after they discover Pierre put a hefty chunk of change into her bank account over the past three years. Cool as a cucumber and certain of her charms, Juliette is called in for questioning by hardass magistrate Sophie (Sylvie Testud). During the interrogation, when Juliette’s life is laid out, Sophie realizes the swaggering woman across from her, once arrested for prostitution, must be the biological mother of her adopted teen son, Leo (Zacharie Chasseriaud).

The tenacious Sophie goes off, fixated on prosecuting her for any charge that will stick, and determined that Juliette and Leo never find out about each other. Sophie’s lawyer husband, Olivier (Gregory Gadebois), thinks there are better ways of ensuring Juliette fades away, so he contacts the woman, claiming to be Pierre’s friend and offering to tide her over until her assets are unfrozen by the courts. Ever the mercenary, Juliette figures there’s something not right: Why give her money if Olivier doesn’t want a roll in the hay? Tensions ratchet up as each person thinks they’re neutralizing an adversary, but everything is bound to blow up in their faces.

The trio of scripters — Angelo himself, along with Francois Dupeyron and Gilles Legrand — must have had great fun building their story, yet halfway through audiences are likely to step back and wonder why Sophie never shifts from her relentless terrier stance, and why Olivier is so clueless when his actions will clearly have disastrous consequences. In many ways, “Too Close to Our Son” resembles a classic noir, which works greatly to its advantage, yet the rhythms falter until the final scenes on a cruise ship, which are played to horrifying perfection.

Fortunately, Juliette’s character is so well conceived, and such fun, that memories of Bisson’s knowing stare will bring reciprocal smiles of amusement long after the final credits. Harkening back to powerful femme fatales of yore, she’s a deliriously enjoyable gold digger made sympathetic because she’s being screwed by a power couple who think they have immunity in toying with others’ lives. Full marks to Bisson, previously seen in small roles, for making Juliette such a forcefully engaging figure, her self-protective swagger only rarely budging to reveal a woman who can still feel life’s knocks. Testud hardens her features to suit the role, and it’s not her fault there’s little modulation in Sophie’s character; the unexpected pairing of Testud and Gadebois works well in making this entitled duo more interesting.

Given Angelo’s celebrated career as d.p. as well as helmer, it’s no surprise that the visuals are top-notch: clean, sensitive to the sun’s effects, inquisitive without prying, and partial to closeups that trust their subjects to hold the screen. The final shipboard scenes in particular are a model of classic filmmaking, expertly edited by Fabrice Rouaud as the characters find and lose one another in a disorienting locale so unlike their usual haunts.

Film Review: 'Too Close to Our Son'

Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (Official Selection), Oct. 18, 2015. (Also in Santa Barbara Film Festival.) Running time: 102 MIN. (Original title: “Au plus pres du soleil”)

Production: (France) A Bac Films release of an Epithete Films production, with the participation of OCS, in association with Sofica Soficinema 11, Cofinova 11, La Banque Postale Image 7, 8. (International sales: Be for Films, Paris.) Produced by Frederic Brillion, Gilles Legrand.

Crew: Directed by Yves Angelo. Screenplay, Angelo, Francois Dupeyron, Gilles Legrand. Camera (color, widescreen), Pierre-Hugues Galien; editor, Fabrice Rouaud; production designer, Bernard Bridon; costume designer, Anne-Marie Sanchez; sound (5.1), Lucien Balibar, Jean Mallet; assistant director, Kevin Laot; casting, Pascale Beraud.

With: Sylvie Testud, Gregory Gadebois, Mathilde Bisson, Zacharie Chasseriaud, John Arnold, Pascal Ternisien, Thomas Doret, Rodolphe Conge, Florence Janas, Stephane Colombe, Emilie van Wormhoudt, Patrice Regnier, Cinzia Calabrese, Emmanuelle Calvez.

More Film

  • Ford v Ferrari

    Oscars: 31 Upcoming Films That Could Enter the Awards Race

    The year reaches the halfway mark on June 30, and traditionally films from the first six months have an uphill battle in the Oscar race. However, this year’s January-June crop might get a boost from the accelerated schedule: Nominations voting is a tight Jan. 2-Jan. 7, 2020. So if voters start their homework now, early [...]

  • Yesterday Movie Danny Boyle

    Danny Boyle on 'Yesterday,' Leaving 'Bond 25' and Why the Beatles Still Rock

    Danny Boyle would like to reintroduce you to the Beatles. The iconic foursome certainly needs no introduction, but in his movie “Yesterday,” which debuts June 28, the director envisions a word where nobody has heard of John, Paul, George and Ringo. That is, nobody besides Jack Malik. When the struggling songwriter, portrayed by newcomer Himesh [...]

  • Svensk Filmindustri SF Studios logo

    Warner Bros, SF Studios Expand Distribution Deal Across Scandinavia

    Warner Bros. Pictures has expanded its distribution deal with SF Studios to include Sweden and have their movies released by the Nordic major through all of Scandinavia. Warner Bros. Pictures already has a distribution pact with SF Studios in Denmark, Norway and Finland. Under the partnership, SF Studios has been handling the sales, marketing and [...]

  • Nicole Kidman Meryl Streep

    Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman to Star in Ryan Murphy's 'The Prom' at Netflix

    Ryan Murphy enlisted a star-studded cast for his upcoming Netflix movie “The Prom,” an adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical. Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Awkwafina, James Corden, Ariana Grande, Keegan-Michael Key and Andrew Rannells are among the A-listers bringing “The Prom” to screens. “The Prom” follows a lesbian student in the fictional conservative town of [...]

  • Viktor Dvorak, Anna Geislerova Join Vaclav

    Viktor Dvorak, Anna Geislerova Join Václav Havel Biopic

    Viktor Dvorak has been cast in “Havel,” a biopic of Václav Havel, as the Czech playwright, dissident and national leader. Anna Geislerova, who starred in Oscar nominated “Zelary,” plays his wife, Olga Havlova. Jiri Bartoska, the president of Karlovy Vary Film Festival, will appear in the film as “Professor,” inspired by Czech philosopher Jan Patocka. [...]

  • Daniel Craig

    'Bond 25' First Footage Sees Daniel Craig Back as 007

    After suffering a series of setbacks, including finding a new director and Daniel Craig’s on-set injury, “Bond 25” production is officially underway. A new behind-the-scenes clip of the upcoming James Bond film features Craig and helmer Cary Joji Fukunaga at work in the Caribbean. The minute-long footage didn’t reveal much about the still-untitled movie, though [...]

  • (L to R) Marco Graf as

    ‘Roma,’ ‘The Good Girls’ Top Mexico’s Ariel Academy Awards

    The Mexican Academy of Arts and Cinematographic Sciences hosted the 61st edition of their Ariel Awards on Monday evening, where Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” and Alejandra Márquez Abella’s “The Good Girls” stood out among the winners. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Cuarón’s “Roma” scooping best picture is that it’s only the second of his films to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content