French film A Loving Father is a quickly unfolding drama of a young man who kidnaps his famous author father in an effort to battle old demons. At least, I think it's a dramaâ€¦
GĂ©rard Depardieu stars as Leo, a novelist who learns he has won what is basically the Nobel Peace Prize. Against the wishes of his daughter Virginia (Sylvie Testud), he hops on his motorcycle to ride to Stockholm to pick it up. He is almost immediately being followed by his estranged son Paul (played by GĂ©rard's real life son Guillaume Depardieu). When Leo gets into an accident that involves other motorists and a bunch of livestock, Paul seizes the opportunity to kidnap his dad, with plans of confronting him about their dark past. Does he just want to talk? Does he want some sort of apology? Does he plan to kill his father? Is he just a crazy drug addict? What exactly happened when he was a child to push him to this extreme behavior?
That's the basic premise of this film. Sounds like it could be a real suspenseful thriller, right? Or maybe even a wild cross-country road trip kidnapping comedy-of-errors? Well, honestly, I'm not sure what it is, so I think it's safer to just call it a drama. Any mystery behind what happened between father and son is pretty much solved from the very first frames of the film, which begins with flashbacks of father and son and suggestions of something not so pleasant happening between them. So from the start, you pretty much side with the son, even though dad tries to blame son's drug addiction on his behavior. You could predict before son even says it that it's obvious WHY he drowned himself in drugs. Despite the both Depardieus giving good performances, I was never sure how I was supposed to feel. Was I supposed to be frightened for what Paul might do to his father? Was I supposed to be cheering him on knowing dad must have been an evil man? The most emotion came from sister Virginia, who has been wrongly led to believe dad was killed in that accident, and spends the remainder of the movie on the road heading to identify his body. The movie did indeed keep me watching, mostly to find out where exactly this unclear genre of film was taking me. There were really odd pockets of misplaced humor that just didn't fit the tone of this filmâ€”unless the language barrier made it hard for me to realize how the actors were actually delivering the lines I was reading, but I don't think so. There was even an odd moment, coming completely out of nowhere, where it appears Virginia sees a ghost!!! And in all honesty, although not totally predictable plot wise, the resolution of the film was predictable in the sense that my initial impressions of all the characters were kept perfectly intact, so I don't feel like this movie took me on any great journey to unexpected places.
The movie is presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen, so, even with 16x9 television enhancement, you'll still see black bars on top and bottom. The print transfer used is exceptional, with very few signs of wear. The image itself is clean, with only a slight hint of edge enhancement that leads to some soft edges. The skin tones leaned towards a yellow tint.
The Dolby 2.0 stereo audio track is excellent, with clear left/right separation, and deep bass response from the subwoofer.
The only extras are four trailers, for the movies Moon Child, Absolut Warhola, 9 Dead Gay Guys, and 2LDK. The movie is in French with English subtitles, with no option to turn them off.
A Loving Father seems to be a son-kidnaps-dad movie that had many options. It could have been a heartbreaking drama. Or a frightening thriller. Or a cute, slapstick comedy. It was really none of them. It was a fast-paced trip to nowhere, because I was left feeling exactly the same at the end of the movie as I did at the beginning. On the bright side, it's given a very good video and audio transfer to DVD, even if it is a bare bones disc with no bonus features, just a few film trailers.