A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"You Will Be My Son" subtly transforms from one genre to another the way an exquisite, complex wine teases the nose before finishing strongly on the palate.
French director and co-writer Gilles Legrand shows great mastery of tone and pacing in his third feature, which begins life as a domestic drama set at a family-owned vineyard and slowly morphs into a tense thriller. Certainly a sense of foreboding is present from the start. Death appears everywhere, early and often, from the stark opening image of a coffin entering a crematorium to the daily discarding of grapes that don't make the grade. Ghosts from the preceding eleven generations that have owned and operated this slab of Saint-Emilion land seem to hover about the place, lending a feeling of weight and importance. This isn't just wine they're making but history, which makes the characters' choices for the future that much more significant.
At its core, though, Legrand's film is about a father and son—or, rather, about two fathers and two sons, and the power of passing down a legacy.
The great Niels Arestrup gives a commanding performance as Paul de Marseul, the respected veteran winemaker in charge of the estate. His offerings are renowned worldwide for their quality, thanks in large part to a 40-year partnership he's had with his solid and quietly loyal vineyard manager, François (Patrick Chesnais). But when Paul learns that François is suffering from pancreatic cancer and doesn't have much longer, he must make plans to continue the operation.