If you’ve heard anything about Xavier Legrand’s Custody — admittedly, it’s possible you haven’t — it’s likely writer/director Xavier Legrand’s elevator pitch that his film “starts like Kramer vs. Kramer and ends like The Shining.” The logline can be taken quite literally, as the film starts with an extended courtroom scene between estranged spouses and ends with the unhinged husband banging down the door separating him from his frightened family. But such a gear shift over the course of 90 minutes never feels abrupt or jarring, in part because Legrand shows the rapid onset of terror stemming from domestic abuse. Quickly but meticulously, he depicts how one violent man sends shockwaves through a family, shaking both his wife and their children to their very core. When coupled with a world outside the home where survivors of abuse are often made to feel responsible for their own fate, Custody makes for a drama-cum-thriller so claustrophobic that it could truly suffocate someone. You’ll be relieved once the camera finally pulls away from the family and begins to exit their story — but ultimately glad you stared directly into the dark heart of a major societal ill.
Marshall has been writing about movies online for over 13 years and began professionally freelancing in 2015. In addition to Crooked Marquee, you can find his bylines at Decider, Slashfilm, Slant, and The Playlist. He lives in New York with his collection of Criterion discs.