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Since Luc granted a divorce to Pascale ten years ago, he paid generous alimony and left a fine country house as long as their twin sons remain at home. Pascale always acted as if she was the provider and head of the household, even now the inseparable brothers are twenty. But she started a secret affair with Flemish neighbor, cook Jan, whose ambition is to start a restaurant and B&B with her. As the boys learn she wants to cancel her job and sell the house for the project, college-man Thierry, who has a steady girl Anne, naturally refuses to let her spend dad's money meant for them. Gentler François, content to remain a handyman, would consider letting her and maybe working in the 'family business'. This causes trouble, even after Pascale moves out to Gerda's indefinitely, leading to tragedy. Written by
While "Private property" can be loosely brought under the umbrella of "dysfunctional family drama" (a recent good one, in the English language, is "The squid and the whale") divorced single mother, emotionally immature just-turned-adult sons, the family's lacking in general purpose and direction it probes the psychology of the protagonist in a way more subtle than you would find in Hollywood.
The plot and events are not important here, just anchors for character development. While the twin sons are just turning adult, the mother, Pascale, who has been working as an employee wants to start her own business elsewhere, with a modest B&B operation. The pre-requisite for her dream is selling their house, which meets immediately with objections from the sons, Tierry and Francois. The divorced father lives within driving distance, with his own family now, but is still on good terms with the sons, something the mother loathes. The mother is having her second romance, seeing a neighbour regularly. Tierry has a girlfriend, not a serious relationship. There you have all the characters. Nothing much happens. As I said, the events serve only to anchor the depiction of relationships between the various people. At the end, something does happen, an accident which is left open-ended.
The movie starts in a mood that you can almost call jovial, as the sons tease Pascale for her new dress. We see a lot of the family in a mundane daily activity eating at the kitchen table. It's only upon reflection that it occurs to me that these scenes perhaps underscore the dependence of the sons on their mother, as do the scenes that repeatedly remind us that they often need a ride from the mother as they live in a remote location and their motorcycle is not a reliable piece of machinery. The message finally sinks in that although Tierry and Francois have just attained adulthood, they are still children in more ways than one. Sitting in front of the TV seems to be their major activity, particularly after Pascale has left the house to stay temporarily with a girl friend after a quarrel with Tierry. The pair become very much like the little kid in "Home alone" (but less resourceful).
The distinction between the tow sons also unfolds gradually, but very clearly. Tierry is the rebellious one with an explosive temper while Francois is introvert, shy and more caring for his mother. There is surprisingly little sibling rivalry, despite their regular fight for the motorbike and adolescence jealousy from Tierry when his girlfriend receives a little attention from Francois. The more significant thing, however, is that despite the obvious fact that Francois is Pascale's favourite, Tierry does not seem to be jealous, probably because he does not care enough about his mother to be so disposed.
The file is shot in a simple, straight forward style, using mostly a static camera, with average-length scenes a day-to-day story told in a simple manner, the way it should be. Consistent with this, and apt, is the decision of not having any background music, until the ending 3 minutes (which in itself is quite interesting because the powerful, overwhelming and disturbing strings would be consider by some as an unnecessary distraction but by others as a brilliant coda to the emotion-charged conclusion).
Playing Tierry is Jeremie Renier who had a similar (but less explosive) role in last year's Cannes winner "L'enfant", demonstrating that he is a top choice for playing a young man facing a huge mental obstacle, however caused, in attaining maturity. Yannick Renier, his real brother, turns in an appropriately subdued, gentle persona. But it is of course Isabelle Huppert, as one poster points out, that is the main attraction for most viewers buying a ticket, including this one. All that I can say is no matter what role she has been given, Huppert always brings to it something that makes it more memorable.
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