THE SON OF JOSEPH (LE FILS DE JOSEPH)
(director/writer: Eugene Green; cinematographer: Raphael O’Byrne; editor: Valerie Loiseleux; music: dam Michna Z. Otradovic, Emilio de Cavalieri, Domenico Mazzocchi; cast: Fabrizio Rongione (Joseph), Victor Ezenfis (Vincent), Natacha Regnier (Marie), Mathieu Amalric (Oscar Pormenor), Maria de Medeiros (Violette Trefouille), Julia de Gasquet (Bernadette), Jacques Bonnaffe (Le paysan), Christelle Prot (Philomène), Adrien Michaux (Philibert), Louise Moaty (Comédienne), Claire Lefilliatre (Chanteuse), Vincent Dumestre (Théorbiste), Felix Dubraux (Dean); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Didier and Francine Jacob; A Coffee and Films/Kino Lorber; 2016-France/Belgium-in French with English subtitles)
“Absorbing family fable with biblical suggestions.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Eugene Green (“The Bridge of Arts”/”The Portuguese Nun”) is a native New Yorker who has lived in France for the last fifty years. He writes and directs this absorbing family fable with biblical suggestions over the sacrifice of Abraham makes on his son Isaac. It plays out as a stagy arthouse comedy of manners about an innocent discontented Parisian teenager’s search for his father. It tells the Nativity Story through the eyes of ordinary folks living in modern times, and takes pleasure in skewering the elite literary establishment and trendy yuppies for their pretensions while ennobling the honest working-class. Green uses five chapters derived from the Bible—The Sacrifice of Abraham, The Golden Calf, The Sacrifice of Isaac, The Carpenter, and The Flight to Egypt—as fodder to delve into the modern-day melodrama of fathers and sons. The lost soul Vincent (Victor Ezenfis), an aspiring writer, lives with his hard-working single mom nurse, Marie (Natacha Regnier), and is anguished that his caring saintly mom never tells him who is his father (Mathieu Amalric). By looking through mom’s locked drawers he finds a letter that reveals his father is a successful book publisher, Oscar Pormenor, and tries to see him through regular business means. When that fails he pays a surprise visit to Oscar’s Paris office and discovers his biological dad is a shit. Though married with three kids, whom he could care less about, he has an affair with his personal secretary (Julia de Gasquet) and treats his estranged and disinherited good-hearted idler brother Joseph (Fabrizio Rongione) like crap. The kid is moved by Caravaggio’s painting of ‘The Sacrifice of Isaac,’ and the gist of the story revolves around how he eventually interprets what the Nativity Story means to him through exposure to the picture and the biblical motifs from the OT. It’s a strange but agreeable tale, that revels in its uniqueness. In this tale Divine Intervention has a comical flavor that fits Green’s style when exploring the various generations and their attitudes to each other.
REVIEWED ON 6/16/2018 GRADE: B+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/