DVD Review: ‘You Will Be My Son’

The third feature from French director Gilles Legrand, You Will Be My Son (Tu seras mon fils, 2011) sees the inimitable Niels Arestrup take the role of Paul de Marseul, a successful winemaker in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux. With ample support from co-stars Lorànt Deutsch and Nicolas Bridet as his respective son and heir, Legrand has concocted a sharp, fruity family inheritance drama that he duly leaves to ferment ahead of the great uncorking. Whilst those with a receptive palette will find much to savour, what could have been the cinematic equivalent of a sprightly white or an intense red ends up more of a middling rose.

Disheartened by the notion of his ‘weak’ son Martin (a rodent-like Deutsch) taking over the family business, Paul faces further complication when his friend and business partner François (Patrick Chesnais) is diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Paul doesn’t believe his son to have inherited the qualities that he deems vital in a master vintner: a delicate sense of taste and smell, never-say-die persistence and a true, unwavering passion for the job and the product. When François’ astute-nosed son Philippe (Nicolas Bridet) returns home to tend to his father, Paul leaps at the chance to name him as his sole successor, irrevocably damaging his relationship with both Martin and his wife, Alice (Anne Marivin).

Arestrup is the unmistakable main draw here, fulfilling a role eerily similar to his own in Joachim Lafosse’s upcoming (and brilliantly unsettling) Our Children (À perdre la raison, 2012). Every veiled insult and backhander aimed towards the shy and retiring Martin is yet another nail in the coffin of their non-existent relationship, with Paul knowingly driving a rift between himself and his ‘unworthy’ kin in order to secure the lucrative future of his business. Almost predictably when faced with such a commanding presence, Deutsch and Bridet do sometimes struggle to escape Arestrup’s shadow, which does drain a little of the dramatic tension before a somewhat soapy conclusion.

You Will Be My Son never quite offers satisfactory motivation for its central trio outside of the obvious – greed and/or family honour. Arestrup is almost relentlessly heartless (though undeniably watchable), whilst Deutsch’s snivelling wannabe-inheritor fails to attract the sympathy that he probably should. On surface-level at least, Legrand’s wine-triangle offers plenty of sniping retorts and cold stares, yet without the full body offered by his more accomplished contemporaries.

Daniel Green