Review: 'Private Property' delightful

“Private Property,” new from Belgian director Joachim Lafosse, takes you into the familial thicket with a trio of warped, trapped souls and simultaneously unsettles and captivates you. Anyone seeking a challenging grown-up alternative to the summer blockbuster should seek out this under-the-radar but serious-voltage melodrama.

Peerless and fearless Isabelle Huppert plays Pascale, a middle-aged divorcée with a bitter ex-husband (Patrick Descamps), a chef boyfriend (Kris Kuppens), and an albatross that takes the form of her grown fraternal-twin sons, Thierry and Francois (Jeremie Renier and Yannick Renier, respectively). Selfish layabouts with whom Pascale shares a no-boundaries closeness, the boys unfairly blame their mother for their parents’ long-ago divorce and treat her with hostility.

When Pascale plans, finally, to leave the nest — by opening a bed-and-breakfast and selling the family’s Belgium farmhouse to fund the venture — her sons freak.

Small-scale and relatively low-key, the film doesn’t wallop you as its drama crescendos, and its denouement you might well predict. Lafosse’s screenplay, written with Francois Pirot, contains some frustratingly shallow symbolism.

Keep your expectations modest, however, and this film achieves mini-stunner status.

Visually, Lafosse’s static images create an impressive picture of characters stuck and stagnated. And while the sugar-free Lafosse, a la Michael Haneke, doesn’t reveal much humor on his palette, he generates unease effectively.

Lafosse also, displaying a bit of Bergman, perhaps, delivers a powerful portrayal of the domestic bond as an intense, infuriating tangle. Having established the feelings that underlie his characters’ destructive dynamics, he makes the family’s unraveling feel tragic.

As for Huppert, an actor who can simply lean back her head and convey a gold mine of reality, she suggests in Pascale a complex mix of apprehension, frustration, hurt and caring, earning viewer concern. If there’s one drawback to Lafosse’s unsentimental filmmaking, it is that its avoidance of the close-up robs this sensational actress of the chance to glow.

Private Property ***

Starring Isabelle Huppert, Jeremie Renier, Yannick Renier, Kris Cuppens

Written by Joachim Lafosse, Francois Pirot

Directed by Joachim Lafosse

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Giants second baseman Donovan Solano scores on a double in the seventh inning against the Dodgers at Oracle Park on July 29. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Will the Giants make the playoffs? Kris Bryant may be the answer

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner You’d be hard-pressed to find… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

A prescribed fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was conducted in June 2016 to reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase watershed health, and restore the natural fire cycle in the Redwood Canyon area ecosystem. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Paterson/National Park Service)
Experts, UC scientists discuss wildfires in the state’s riskiest regions

Wildfires are nothing new in California’s history, but the magnitude and frequencies… Continue reading

Fourth-grade students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School don masks and Western wear for a “Walk Through California” history day during in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Krystal Nelson)
Confusion over mask mandate for California schools sparks tension between districts and parents

By Diana Lambert EdSource Shifting rules around mask mandates at schools are… Continue reading

In his extensive filming of The City during the pandemic, Eric Goodfield said he has been “observing how the environment affects the behavior of people.” (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Filmmaker Eric Goodfield fixes lens on SF’s COVID days

140 days of shooting in The City made for ‘greatest adventure’

Most Read