You Will Be My Son

Directed By: Gilles Legrand

Starring: Niels Arestrup, Lorànt Deutsch, Nicolas Bridet, Anne Marivin, and Patrick Chesnais

As I've matured, I've made an interesting transition as a drinker.  I used to be all about the spirits.  I had a love for cocktails and martinis of all kinds.  Specifically, I was a gin man.  Things have changed as time has marched on.  Nowadays, I prefer wine to spirits, especially white wines.  I guess the transition to wine happens for a good chunk of us as we age.  For me, this transition is exactly the reason why the French drama You Will Be My Son intrigues me so much.  This movie is all about the winery business.

Paul de Marseul (Niels Arestrup) owns a vineyard in France.  He's a man who loves his wines a whole lot more than he loves his son Martin (Lorànt Deutsch). The only reason he keeps Paul around is because he wants his son and daughter-in-law Alice (Anne Marivin) to give him a grandson and perpetuate the family name.  Paul doesn't respect Martin either, and he makes this abundantly clear in their work life.  Martin just does the administrative work in the vineyard.  He doesn't actually manage the harvest or his father's estate for that matter.  That job belongs to Paul's longtime friend François (Patrick Chesnais).  However, François becomes terminally ill with pancreatic cancer and is given six months to live.  With Paul's estate manager getting ready to check out, opportunity is knocking for Martin, and he does get a brief shot at proving himself to his father.  There's just one problem.  Paul would rather hand the keys to his estate over to François's son Philippe (Nicolas Bridet) than to leave it with Martin whom he believes to be inept.

I'm definitely a fan of You Will Be My Son.  It's a poignant drama that delves into classic father-son issues with the backdrop of a winery.  The film centers on the relationship between Paul and Martin as it spirals downward.  Paul hates Martin for not inheriting his nose for wines, and the feeling quickly becomes mutual.  It's a very fascinating situation.  This classic relationship is complicated by François and Philippe, however.  As François loses his life, he also loses his son to Paul and his crazy dreams of passing his vineyard along to Philippe instead of Martin.  Paul's fantasy creates a tangled web that ultimately undermines not only his relationship with his son Martin but also the relationship of François and Philippe.

The performances in You Will Be My Son are top notch as every principal cast member has a dark turn at some point in the film.  For his part as Paul, Niels Arestrup does so for the entire movie.  He gives us one cold fish who will do what he must to preserve his business the way he envisions it.  It's a nice change after he portrayed such a loving grandfather in Steven Spielberg's War Horse a couple of years ago.  We also have Lorànt Deutsch as Martin.  He turns to the drink he's been trying to make all his life as he comes to terms with the fact that his father despises him.  Alcohol brings out the worst in him.  As Philippe, Nicolas Bridet gives us a man tempted by ambition and the $30 million inheritance Paul has thrown his way. Finally, we have Patrick Chesnais as François.  In his character's twilight hour, Chesnais gives us a man who will do anything to put his family on the right path toward a future without him.

As much as I enjoyed the film, I have a big issue with it.  I do not like the ending.  Like many indies, the film concludes abruptly.  The problem with this ending is that we already know from the beginning of the film that Paul dies somewhere in the movie.  Just going along the journey to see how this happens is not enough.  We need to know how different elements of this tale ultimately unfold in the aftermath of Paul's death.  Too much is left to conjecture.  Too much is left to the moviegoer's imagination.  It's an altogether disappointing ending that leaves a lot to be desired and sours something that is on the whole a good film.  It is for this reason and this reason alone that You Will Be My Son gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Given that we've been talking about a French drama that's all about the wine-making business, I have to recommend something from Bordeaux.  Have a few glasses of Sauvignon Blanc with this one.  Just don't put any ashes in your wine like Paul does.