‘Father of My Children’ explores nuances of fatherhood, familial obligation

A family with two little girls walks towards the camera as one of the girls runs towards the camera.
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The aftermath of the unexpected is captured masterfully by director Mia Hansen-Løve in her 2009 award-winning movie “Father of My Children.” In this slice-of-life drama, Hansen-Løve examines the range of emotions surrounding the decisions taken by a struggling film producer and how his family must be expected to cope.

From the get-go, the action focuses on Grégoire Canvel’s (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) vibrant career energy and its stimulation of his joie de vivre. He is shown roaming the streets of Paris with a cigarette in his lips and a phone cradled under the ear, taking multiple calls.

Grégoire is a man the audience can relate to, trying to balance the demands of a family and his career. While he is a loving father who strives to make time for his three daughters and wife, he juggles the demands of his independent film production company — clearly his life’s passion — with his life at home, often to the exasperation of his wife Sylvia (Chiara Caselli).

On the surface, Grégoire appears supremely confident that he can handle it all. Much like the late French producer Humbert Balsan, the real-life figure on whom the character is based in part, Grégoire is passionate about his work in nurturing new talent and promoting independent films, even if they are not deemed commercial successes. Even as he faces mounting debt, he appears convinced he can somehow weather it. After tragedy strikes, it appears that Grégoire’s family must learn to navigate the world of film production and honor Grégoire’s desire to celebrate up-and-coming artists and stories.

The latter half of the film is a poignant portrayal of Gregoire’s family working to come to terms with the man’s decisions and legacy and continue to push for his dreams for the film industry. Just as Hansen-Løve crafts a beautiful, semibiographical narrative on family ties, she creates a story that showcases the necessity of bringing independent artworks to light.

Contact Hari Srinivasan at [email protected].