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The Successor (Le Successeur)

The artistic director of a famous fashion house in Paris returns to Canada for his estranged father's funeral, only to uncover a dirty secret he could never fathom - bizarre yet strangely gripping crime drama premieres at the 71st San Sebastian International Film Festival

QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM SAN

Ellias Barnès (Marc-André Grondin) just landed a new job at a top French fashion house, and his life couldn’t be more promising and glamorous. He grudgingly returns to his native Quebecois home after his father’s sudden death to a heart attack. Making funeral arrangements is the least significant of his priorities. He is far more concerned about digging through his father’s large house, and finding out more about his medical history. Ellias has been experiencing some chest pain and panic attacks, and he is afraid that he might have a fate similar to his late elder. What happens next tests his perceivedly weak heart in ways he could never anticipate.

Two doting neighbours of his late father attempt to connect with the quiet and reserved Ellias. A kind, avuncular and vaguely intrusive middle-aged man (Yves Jacques) and his wife insist that he joins them for dinner, or at least for a quick drink. He explains to the dispassionate and reluctant young man that his father meant a lot to their family, and that he was well aware of the family fall-out (the reason for the such break-up is never revealed). He claims that the old man very much loved his son, and proudly showed them pictures of him. It would mean the world to them if they could to spend a little bit of time with the only child of their much-loved neighbour and friend. An ice-cold Ellias remains mostly unmoved.

What starts out as a family drama focused on grief almost instantly morphs into a crime thriller as Ellias makes a very bizarre discovery inside his father’s house, raising suspicions about the neighbours, and forcing Ellias to make some very spontaneous and short-sighted actions with dangerous repercussions. The young man begins to break down, as do his decision-making abilities. Despair clouds his judgement, and a step in the wrong direction could potentially destroy his life. Expect frantic running, violence and a couple of gruesome developments.

The first two thirds of this 107-minute film feel a little awkward and banal. The twists seem random and gratuitous, and the script becomes a patchwork of thriller subgenre devices (I can’t list those without spoiling the movie). Some of the most dramatic scenes inadvertently elicit laughter instead of tension, with an increasingly deranged Ellias screaming uncontrollably like an adult baby. It gets better in the final third, when the subplots finally gel together, to an interesting closure. All in all, a clumsy yet partly effective thriller (if you can survive the first 60 minutes).

The Successor just premiered in the Official Competition of the 71st San Sebastian Donostia Zinemaldia Film Festival.


By Victor Fraga - 26-09-2023

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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