Divorce or separation is never an easy time for those involved but it’s often the children who suffer the most. It’s all too common for adults to get caught-up in their own personal conflicts and not realise the impact their animosity is having on their loved ones. This is the subject of actor turned director Xavier Legrand’s feature debut Custody, which won him the Silver Lion at Venice. A film which is very difficult to watch but deserves to be seen.

After a fraught and bitter divorce, Miriam (Léa Drucker) and Antoine (Denis Ménochet) battle for custody of their 11-year old son Julien (Thomas Gioria). She claims her ex-husband is violent but can provide no proof. He claims that she’s turned his boy and their (soon to be) 18-year old daughter (Mathilde Auneveux) against him. When joint custody is awarded, deep animosities and tensions are played-out around the life of an innocent child.

Custody is an extremely tense and toxic family drama which is uncomfortable and unsettling viewing. Legrand handles the material brilliantly, combining an intelligent and powerful script with periods of heightened silence and inertia. As a whole, the cast are brilliant, but it’s a startling performance by Thomas Gloria which really hits hard. He’s resigned to his role in the familial power struggle and wears the scars with a stoic grace. As the events of Custody unravel, it moves away from being an understated and emotive piece towards a nail-biting thriller.

Custody is released on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital by Picturehouse Entertainment on 3 September.