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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
A compelling social drama depicting the long-term fallout from a divorce.
Joachim Lafosse's 'Private Property' portrays a family scarred by divorce. The mother, Pascale (Isabelle Huppert), lives with her two sons, Thierry and Francois (real-life brothers Jeremie and Yannick Reniere), in an isolated rural household. Though they are both young men, the brothers come across as puerile layabouts. Thierry is an indolent student and Francois is employed only in odd jobs around the house; much of their time is spent on ping-pong, computer games and playing around on Francois's bike. The two subject their mother to teasing and taunting that is on one level playful and amusing but on another level disrespectful and mean; this is apparent in the very first scene, where Pascale's new lingerie is the impetus for hurtful ridicule.
Pascale is stoical in the face of such barefaced disrespect, but we can clearly see that the mother-son relationship is extremely strained. Although the two brothers depend on Pascale for food and transport in their isolated household, they show her very little respect. At the same time, Pascale is suffocated by the continued dependency of her unappreciative sons; she has had to put her aspirations on hold in order to look after them. The furious encounter between Pascale and Luc, her ex-husband, played out before the two boys, is an early intimation of the divisions in the household; Thierry and Francois are visibly distressed by the argument between their absentee father and their struggling mother.
Pascale's only outlet is her secretive relationship with Jan, her neighbour. When she and Jan hatch a plan to open a Bed and Breakfast, she finally decides to assert herself, putting herself first after 15 years of raising her children on her own. The brothers are dismayed by this plan, which will involve the sale of the house to finance the new business. Thierry stridently denounces her plan as fanciful and angrily proclaims his and Francois's sole right to inherit the house. When Pascale invites Jan over to dinner with the boys he tries to reason with them about their mother's rights to the house, but this only exacerbates the problem. This is one of many scenes set at the dinner table, which becomes less and less a focus for the family and more and more a theatre of conflict. Thierry's taunting soon turns into persistent bullying about the rights to the property and Pascale eventually quits the household and retreats to the home of a friend.
With Isabelle Huppert away from the screen, the film loses some of its magnetism, but the conflict that emerges between the two brothers soon becomes engrossing. Francois increasingly regrets the absence of his mother; his resentment towards Thierry comes to a head when he humiliates him in front of his girlfriend. A violent argument ensues, resulting in a terrible accident. The following scenes are all the more gripping as we see the panic on the faces of the family members but do not know how serious the accident is.
The conclusion of 'Private Property' is one of the most powerful pieces of cinema that I have seen this year. Thierry's belief that his mother has caused all the family's problems, past and present, is brought into the light of day. Pascale and Luc are left to pick up the broken pieces of their family. As the sole piece of music in the entire film begins to play the camera retreats down the road, driving away from the house for the last time. It is a devastating end to a compelling drama.
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