VOD film review: The Son of Joseph
Josh Slater-Williams | On 21, Dec 2016
Director: Eugène Green
Cast: Victor Ezenfis, Natacha Régnier, Fabrizio Rongione, Mathieu Amalric, Maria de Medeiros
Watch The Son of Joseph online in the UK: N/A
Following 2009’s The Portuguese Nun being released here by Artificial Eye, arthouse favourite Eugène Green, a US-born, French director, finally has a new film reaching UK viewers on a wider platform than the festival circuit, thanks to MUBI releasing the film into cinemas and later streaming on Christmas Day. As may quickly become clear from a glimpse at the narrative (or, you know, the title), a Christmas debut for The Son of Joseph is awfully appropriate.
Sullen teenager Vincent (Ezenfis) has been raised by a loving single mother, Marie (Régnier), but she has always abstained from revealing the identity of the father, who has never been present in the boy’s life. After some investigation, Vincent finally discovers that his biological father is one Oscar Pormenor (Amalric), a famous Parisian publisher. Sneaking his way into a book launch, Vincent gets a sense of his egotistical, cynical, philandering father and doesn’t like what he sees. He decides to enact a plan of revenge on the man, but in doing so crosses paths with Oscar’s brother, Joseph (Rongione), a kinder figure, whose patriarch possibilities prove appealing to the teenager. Things get stranger from there. Also, a donkey shows up.
Nativity references are scattered throughout The Son of Joseph, although the film’s humour palette is thankfully not reliant solely on transpositions from Bethlehem to Paris. Surreal social comedy is a major force of the film’s wit, from Vincent’s teenage friend starting an online sperm-donor operation to Maria de Medeiros playing a daffy book critic, who’s easily duped concerning the current DOA status of figures such as Marcel Proust.
A recurrent trait of Green’s films is a form of decelerated dialogue and expressions from actors, influenced by Baroque theatre techniques, alongside having the performers deliver their lines right into camera. Thanks to the latter, certain cinephiles may have Yasujiro Ozu spring to mind when watching, although the director DNA you could read into the film’s form spreads wide, from the carefully controlled speeches of Wes Anderson or Hal Hartley to the spiritually-inclined likes of Robert Bresson. These are just some (potentially) reductive ways of getting across something of the feel of Green’s unique cinematic world. So much of The Son of Joseph’s pleasures, though, lie in just going along with the weird (donkey) ride.
The Son of Joseph is not available on UK VOD.