Private Property (15)
By Mike Polanyk
I've seen a few psychological dramas over the years, and most of them just don't work.
This French film, on the other hand, is the real thing. I haven't smoked for 30 years, but was highly tempted to light up a ciggie to help me relax after the awesome, chilling final reel.
A divorced woman (Isabelle Huppert) lives with her teenaged twin sons, and the squabbling siblings often make her life hell. She's also getting very tired of their estranged father constantly buying their affection.
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So she tries to persuade the directionless duo to get out and start living – so she can get her own life back. When this fails, she attempts to sell the family home and move away with a lover, but that only triggers all-out war within the family.
Now, I'm well aware of the critics' trap, of deriding mainstream films and insisting foreign cinema is where it's at – but this year I'm convinced it's true.
These are no cheap thrills – the pace picks up gradually but inexorably, until a powerful ending has you gasping for breath.