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Le père de mes enfants
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Reviews & Ratings for
Father of My Children More at IMDbPro »Le père de mes enfants (original title)

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49 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

Defeat of death, victory of life

Author: guy-bellinger ( from Montigny-lès-Metz, France
29 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Seeing "Le père de mes enfants" you would think that its writer-director, Mia Hansen-Løve, is in the last part of her career, that she has gone through the ups and downs of a long life, has made peace with it and is now able to contemplate the world with wisdom and understanding. And you would be totally wrong. Mia Hansen-Løve was only twenty-seven when she made this profound film.

She took her inspiration from two real-life models, Humbert Balsan, a brilliant film producer who took his life at the age of 51 when he realized he would go bankrupt, and Donna Balsan, his wife, who, for all her grief, did her utmost to save Ognon Pictures, her husband's company, after his death. But mind you, this is no straight biopic. For instance, the names have been changed; Grégoire Canvel (the screen equivalent of Balsan) has three kids instead of two; the way he kills himself is different; Bela Tarr, the Hungarian director Balsan had trouble with at the time of his death, has become Stig Janson, a Swedish helmer; and so on… Even Mia Hansen-Løve herself, who is part of the story, is represented indirectly, by Arthur,a young film maker that Grégoire wants to produce but finally can't ( a reference to "Tout est pardonné", Hansen-Løve's former film, whose production was taken over by Pelléas Films after Balsan's suicide). Oddly enough, Arthur happens to be interpreted by Igor Hansen-Løve, Mia's own brother. Sure, "Le père de mes enfants" is not the exact telling of the life of one of the most original producers of French cinema, but it is very close to reality and perhaps even closer than if it was a mere biopic, since what Mia Hansen-Løve tries to do is to capture the essence of a man's soul, not only to piece facts together.

To achieve this end, the writer-director divides her story into two distinct parts. The first one presents Grégoire in his professional as well as in his family life, both tending to intermingle to the despair of Sylvia, Grégoire's wife. The long opening sequence during which Grégoire uses his mobile phone whatever the place he is in is explicit in this respect. At his country house on the weekend, Grégoire is the loving father of three delightful daughters and Sylvia's faithful companion. At his Paris office he is an industrious man, the enthusiastic, tireless, staunch defender of auteur film-making, whether French or foreign. But money troubles become more and more insistent, preventing him from indulging his passion serenely. The documentary aspect is excellent: the account of the way the small production company works day after day is very realistic without being boring. But interesting as this part is, it would not be enough to make "Le père de mes enfants" something else but a good film. What makes it really outstanding is the second part in which Mia Hansen-Løve explores the consequences of Grégoire's suicide on his nearest and dearest and on his collaborators. And she does it with a truly magic touch. She first very intelligently disposes of the set pieces of the discovery of the corpse and of the funeral. Instead, she directly cuts to the deep sorrow experienced by Grégoire's wife and daughters, the feeling of unacceptable loss, of resentment against the deceased who abandoned them. Then she shows how the characters evolve, slowly coming to terms with the situation, gradually realizing that Grégoire's life has been so rich, has brought them so much that he is now part of them, that what he accomplished in the artistic domain before committing suicide has not disappeared. They know now that his spirit will go on living, through his films, through the persons they have become thanks to him…

A sad story but which does not make you sad in the end, for Mia Hansen-Løve doesn't take morbid delight in the evocation of death and the damages it causes. On the contrary, it is life she pays a tribute to when she films wonderful scenes of family life with or without Grégoire, often in a sunny atmosphere. In the end, we get the comforting feeling that arrogant Death finally admits defeat.

The actors, although practically unknown, are very convincing. Louis-Do de Lencqueseing is fascinatingly close to his model and to his natural charm. His own teenage daughter Alice de Lencquesaing, who plays Grégoire's oldest daughter, is simply wonderful, displaying a wealth of unaffected beauty and hypersensitivity. Alice Gautier and Manelle Driss, who play her little sisters, are full of life, and Chiara Caselli, in the difficult role of Gregoire's wife, rings true throughout.

Florent Dudognon, who reviewed "Tout est pardonné", Hansen-Løve's first feature on Evene on 30-7-2007, used the following terms to qualify the film: "touching, sensitive, sweet, unmarred by pop psychology crap, played with restraint". I guess he will not change a word if he comments on "Le père de mes enfants", a moving picture you must not miss on any account.

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13 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Slightly pointless

Author: paul2001sw-1 ( from Saffron Walden, UK
4 October 2012

'The Father Of My Children' tells the story of the family of a film producer who comes under financial stress. Plot-wise, the film surprises when the expected ending occurs half-way through; we thus get to also see the aftermath. There's nothing wrong with this per se, although it means we really have two stories in one, and the overall narrative arc is thus slightly broken. But I don't think this is the only reason this film seems strangely devoid of dramatic tension. Even though there are some fairly notable developments, nothing really seems to upset the serenity of its affluent characters. At one point, there's a power cut and the lights go off; after a few minutes, they come back on again, and in some ways, that's how the whole film feels: stuff happens, but the consequences always seem not to actually matter that much. I normally like understated films; but this one, although nicely put together, feels underplayed, and therefore, just a little uninteresting.

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

"a roller-coaster of emotions": a look at the value to the audience of Father of my Children.

Author: hotgalstephy from Australia
19 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In response to previous reviews, commenting on this movie's failure to live up to its so- called "roller-coaster of emotions" hype, I agree. Happily.

This movie is not an edge of your seat, thrill at every corner, emotion jerker- and that's what makes it superb. Hansen- Løve binds this movie to a sense of realism which i find translates perfectly to its audience, and relates to its audience. The movie illustrates Grégoire's progression towards suicide, and the life for the family he leaves behind, in a non- appeasing, human way. Grégoire's story may not provide the audience with explanations, excuses or a nice dramatic lead up to his death. Scene by scene, the audience is given mixed messages from Grégoire, leading us to feel unprepared for his sudden death. But that is suicide, in its realest form. And Hansen- Løve has successfully translated this feeling from the Canvel family to the audience.

In justification of the so called "pointless" scenes, a scene sampling the relationship between the elder daughter and the writer boy who met with Grégoire, or another sampling the elder daughters pursuance of her half brother, is completely adequate. The daughter is rebuilding her life after Grégoire's death, which cannot be shown to us in a detailed, flowing, coherent way- because that is not the way she is living it. The broken, inconsistent scenes of the elder daughter's, the younger daughters' and the wife's lives, are shown to the audience in the same way they are lived by the characters.

The scenes prior to Grégoire's death, however, construct a solid image of the emotional bond and unity of the 5 members of the Canvel family- scenes such as a giggling Valentine being discovered by Grégoire, hiding in his bed, or Billie floating alone in the pool of water, being watched over by her mother.

I think in order to profit from this movie, the audience's expectations should be shifted from a "rollercoaster ride of emotions" kind of movie- complete with drama, coherence, and a relevant, easy to follow plot- to that of a sincere expression of life as it is, and how it continues- captured on film. In this respect, it is superb.

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18 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

'The Defeat of Death, The Victory of Life'

Author: gradyharp from United States
6 June 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Yes, this space is dedicated to the sale of a movie poster for the magnificent film 'Le père de mes enfants' (THE FATHER OF MY CHILDREN) but likely the film spot will surface very soon: this is on of those foreign films that enters quietly, gently urging audiences to notice how fine the product is. So despite the fact that the film is currently in theaters and will soon be released on DVD, this serves as a wake-up notice to film lovers everywhere.

Young Writer/Director Mia Hansen-Løve has created a story loosely based on a real situation that manages to examine the central aspect of family love: 'the defeat of death, the victory of life'. Grégoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) is a producer in the film industry, an auteur who is devoted to quality films. As a producer he has several films in varying stages of production (including one in Sweden directed by a difficult genius who has little respect for cost containment) and the financial aspects of his Moon Films is in rocky terrain, despite being surrounded by a staff devoted to his vision and going without pay because of their commitment. At the same time Grégoire is a devoted husband to his wise wife Sylvia (Chiara Caselli) and to his three daughters - the oldest being the sensitive Clémence (a stunning portrayal by young Alice de Lencquesaing), Valentine (Alice Gautier) and Billie (Manelle Driss) - taking country walks with them and being wholly involved with their family activities, despite the fact that he is constantly on the cellphone managing the tragedies that abound at work. It is apparent that everyone who comes into contact with Grégoire feels the special gifts he has - except for the lawyer and creditors he tries to avoid. The financial sinkhole opens and Grégoire, in despair, commits suicide. The story actually begins here, as the point of the film is how each of the people who came under Grégoire's influence - co-workers, wife and children, and friends - responds to the loss of this man. There is not the usual breast-beating grieving, but rather a quiet study of how each of these people is affected by and reacts to the passing of a solitary genius by suicide. The film is definitely one that is life affirming rather than an extended eulogy!

The entire cast is excellent, with special kudos to the children as well as to Eric Elmosnino who plays a rock bound friend to the family and the director's brother Igor Hansen-Løve whose small part as a hopeful writer is richly detailed. This may be too early a time to judge the talent of Mia Hansen-Løve, but if she is able to maintain the quality she achieves in THE FATHER OF MY CHILDREN, she has an exciting future in cinema. Highly recommended.

Grady Harp

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Ode to a film producer

Author: p-stepien from United Kingdom
5 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Loosely based on the real life suicide of the late film producer Humbert Balsan, renowned for his backing of Arabian and women cinema, dissects events leading up to the ill-fated death and then presents the personal fallout left in its wake. Appropriately filmed by a woman, director Mia Hansen-Løve stresses the differences by changing the name of the producer to Grégoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), in part to avoid confusion about the dramatisation, in part out of pure respect.

The story places a visible distinction between the before and after, where the key focus is placed on how his wife Sylvia (Chiara Caselli) and three daughters Clemence (Alice de Lencquesaing), Billie (Manelle Driss) and Valentine (Alice Gautier) cope in the aftermath of the suicide caused by financial distress.

Fittingly cinephile "Father of my Children" is a slow-paced family drama with a lingering focus on emotions. Life however, unlike in most movies fret with happy endings, just goes on. Attempts to tie up the past are only partially successful, when Sylvia embarks on a mission to finish her husband's legacy by completing unfinished productions only to face harsh realities, that certain things will be forcibly left buried with Grégoire and liquidation is inevitable. A Hollywood closure is unachievable, simply as unrealistic as rescuing a sinking ship. Even family matters are left open-ended, as the daughters struggle to understand how their father could have compulsively done away with himself to ultimately disregard the family that supported him throughout and where a great affection between members is evident. In the end each of them cope on their own, more owed to time passing by, than some profound realisation.

Essentially a good movie made in true French style, albeit a low-key affair, which lingers emotionally, but doesn't do much in the way of awakening deeper reaction, despite all-round good performances. The run-length fizzles through gaining some dramatical foothold, but maybe not sufficient given the grave subject matter. Bleak engagement bereft of pull substantially drives down the quality of the experience, as the realism of grieving seems to ask for a more standardised movie language with a distinct culmination.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Well done, but I was left wanting more

Author: bandw from Boulder, CO
24 June 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(Spoilers) This meditation on a suicide left me somewhat unsatisfied. It is the story of Grégoire Canvel, a successful French movie producer, and his family. The first part of the movie introduces us to the Canvel family: Grégoire, his wife, and three attractive young daughters. There are scenes that illustrate the great affection that exists among all members of this family, like Grégoire playfully searching for his youngest daughter who is hiding under the covers in her bed.

We are led to believe that Grégoire is a typical, harried businessman who spends most of his life on his cell phone. However, as the movie progresses it is seen that Grégoire's company is in some serious financial trouble and his business is on the verge of bankruptcy. Hints are dropped that Grégoire himself may be in some deep emotional waters. All of this is well and good and I waited to find out the resolution to this unfortunate situation, but I was not prepared for Grégoire's abrupt suicide about half way through the movie. Indeed his suicide is mystifying since Grégoire's family life is so positive. I wanted more details on the motivation for the suicide--could it have simply been the financial problems as implied? That seems too simple an explanation. Grégoire is seen burning some documents before ending his life; what were those? Why was the audience denied knowing this, since that could have helped in understanding the suicide. Grégoire mentioned that as a last resort he could tap into his wife's monies. He never acted on that. Why was that? Was it even a possibility?

The second half of the movie details the family's reaction to Grégoire's fatal act. This part of the movie plays out in a believably realistic way. Grégoire's wife Sylvia tries to finish up the projects that her husband had underway at the time of his death. If she had substantial financial reserves, she did not use those to accomplish her goals. Each of the three girls copes in her own way--life goes on.

In the end I felt like a voyeur dropping on in this family's tragedy and I had to question the value of the movie. It was not a warning to pay closer attention to the emotional state of others, since I think that there was no way that Sylvia could have guessed the gravity of Grégoire's mental state. Maybe an admonition that people should be more forthcoming in communicating what they are thinking? On average in France there are three male suicides for every female suicide. Does this movie help in understanding that statistic?

The movie is well filmed and the actors are in good form. As a bonus there is a small travelogue of Parisian scenes as Grégoire drives around Paris. But I was left wanting more.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Loosely based on the life of famous French film producer Humbert Balsan (1954-2005)

Author: FilmCriticLalitRao from Paris, France
22 October 2013

Apart from having loads of incomplete information about the lifestyles of film stars, most people also have their minds full of vague ideas about film producers as they are taken for rich businessmen. A layman doesn't think twice before believing that producers would be willing to invest in any film. Father, producer and suicide are three key words which describe the essence of Mia Hansen-Løve's film 'Father of my children'/Le Père De Mes Enfants". In the beginning, there is a doting father in this film who has immense love for his children. What is worth appreciating is the fact that despite his tight schedule, he manages to spend time with his family. From a sociological point of view, family is the most important social structure known to human beings. This is one reason why the film's protagonist takes good care of his family. He knows that he can strike a fine balance with family life and work. However, there are times when life offers new surprises. It is at this stage that one witnesses how despair,tremendous pressure drive a famous producer to commit suicide. The real worth of a human being can be measured only at the time of his/her absence. This maxim can be applied to this film's title which looks at a father who is no more from the point of view of his children and wife.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Dreams don't always come true

Author: mmunier from Australia
3 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I feel that being only the 4th person to evaluate this film is a little daunting, but what the heck. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, well staged in my birth city, and now I live in Sydney Australia it's always a bonus to get a free trip! Beside this fact I did really like the way the characters' acting did not look like they were acting and so look so natural. I did not realise this was taken from true events but do not feel it does matter anyway. It's just a story of someone who has dreams and works very positively towards them despite the increasing impossibility of success to the point there is no return. Despair and depression are the winner to the shocking final towel trow. The rest of the livings are trying to cope and pick the pieces but in vain, at least for the pieces as the movie gets you to believe that despite everything life goes on... you could say this actually is a contradiction in term! I was a little annoyed about the music score in the beginning, rather loud and not flattering, perhaps I missed something, and I also must have missed something with the ending song that did not work very well for me, I found it rather inappropriate, but my friends disagreed with me so there you are, each person may respond in different way.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Good Film

Author: bon22
1 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film gave me the kind of experience I hope for when watching French movies: A character driven, intimate story, which so involved me that I feel as if I'd been away on a trip to France. The performances were authentic & lean. The scenery, both interior shots of apartments & buildings, as well as exterior shots of street life, made me feel as if I was in Paris. I was engrossed as to how the characters reacted to the heavy subject matter & how the story line progressed. The film has great depth without feeling heavy.

A reviewer here on IMDb commented about how they didn't like the scenes which were not driving the story line, but for me, that's what I love about (some) French Cinema: a character walks from point A to point B or a character orders coffee while awaiting an important appointment. These connecting scenes are the stuff of real life & enable the viewer to identify with the character. Everyone experiences those mundane moments & knows what it feels like.

Except for the main character Gregoire, I did not judge the reactions of the other characters: I simply observed their reactions to the serious events that befell them.

The final scene was darkly humorous: Doris Day sings "Que Sera, Sera" as the characters flee Paris, leaving behind the life they had loved.

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13 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

should be great, but fails.

Author: ihrtfilms from Australia
30 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film has been well reviewed, described as a 'roller-coaster' and emotional, so I was prepared for something quite heavy. However some 30 minutes in, nothing much had happened. The film centers around Gregoire a husband, father and workaholic who runs a film production company that is facing massive financial issues. In between continuous phone calls and business meetings, Gregoire spends time with his family, at their apartment or at the house in the country. The family seem very close and content, but away from this Gregoire is in crisis mode.

The start of the film plays outs very slowly, but there is a sense that something tragic will happen. Of course it does, but the effect is less than I would expect. Gregoire's death devastates those around him and his wife is left to pick up the pieces. What should be an emotional, er, roller-coaster fails to engage on an emotional level because while we see Gregoire is up against life, there is no indication that life is so bad that suicide is the answer. There is also no shock element to his death, Gregoire burns some papers then walks along and shoots himself and it all seemed unrealistic.

The film also struggles as there is an immense array of pointless scenes: the elder daughter sitting in a cafe ordering a coffee, the family walking around a church in Italy. All of these scenes add nothing except to drag out the story which after the death introduces a secret child and a friendship between the elder daughter and a young man who was to work with her fathers company. Neither of these stories are explored in any detail and so add nothing to the film either.

It's a shame that for me the film didn't engage. There are some nice performances, especially from the daughters and the scenes of the family are actually quite endearing. What a loss then that a potentially interesting and emotional story set inside the world of film making is nothing but slow and a little boring.

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