Into Dad’s Woods (La Forêt de Mon Père) French Film Festival at Home

The opening scene of a beautifully dappled wood, that had been till recently the workplace of Jimmy Kremer (Alban Lenoir), immediately gives way to an insight into the man’s troubled character. What seems like an innocuous scene of a father teaching his three children about  nature, is soon revealed to contain traits that dictate the film’s narrative. When the gentle birdsong is drowned out by the rasping noise of the forest owner’s trailer truck who had recently sacked Jimmy Kremer, the opposing world views of the men comes in to sharp relief. The owner wants Jimmy and  his family off his land; Jimmy believes that nature belongs to everyone. 

Over the film’s 90 minutes, set  in the Belgian town of Montigny- le -Tilleul, the impact of Jimmy’s rogue behaviour increases in severity. Its disturbing effect is  felt by his wife Carole (Ludivine Sagnier), the children Tony (Mathis Bour) and Nora (Saskia de Melo Dillais) but particularly by the teenage daughter Gina, played by Léonie Souchaud  with a calm maturity beyond her years. 

La Forêt de Mon Père, from Belgian director Véro Cratzborn, that is her first full length feature film, contains elements of the traditional  fairy tale. As the title says, there is a forest and here Jimmy takes the children on outings then abandons them like Hansel and Gretel  yet this same Jimmy fearlessly throws a bucket of water over lads who are harassing Gina. He is hero and villain; prince and ogre, in one – the dichotomy  believably captured  by Alban Lenoir. Whereas the usual saviour is a male, here it is the  strong yet utterly vulnerable Gina who tries to take on that role when she finds the pain of watching a loving father slipping into madness unbearable.  

Showing that she has absorbed her Dad’s ideas, Gina coolly states to her  friend and ally Nico (Carl Malapa) when in the rich person’s house where her mother is a cleaner, “Tout est à nous” (Everything belongs to us). Lightly echoing the South Korean film Parasite, this young woman on the cusp of adulthood inhabits the space both ferally and to the manor born  with her own reckless agenda in mind.

With original music from Daniel Bleikolm and Maxine Steiner, this intriguing film with its strong cast whose scenes other than those in the forest have a slightly washed out look, shows that nothing is ever merely black and white.

Irene Brown

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