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May 12, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

My Father’s Guests (Les Invités de mon père)


It’s your typical father/children relationship – father wants one thing, children want another. And while the children have their father’s best interests at heart, Daddy doesn’t always want to listen. My Father’s Guests throws a dangerous twist on an old classic that will have viewers questioning exactly how elastic the boundaries of right and wrong can be.

In My Father’s Guests, the threat to family unity comes in the form of a Moldovan illegal immigrant with a young daughter. That attractive young mother is trashy and offensive, seemingly too poorly educated to be anything but harmless. However but it quickly becomes clear that she’ll do—and sacrifice—almost anything to give her daughter a better chance at life. Lucien (Michel Aumont), at 80 years old, still believes in his radical anti-government causes.

With their mother long dead, Lucien’s children Babette (Karin Viard) and Arnaud (Fabrice Luchini) have either adhered or rebelled against their father’s cause. Babette sacrifices personal happiness with a boring partner and Arnaud becomes a rich business lawyer almost out of spite for his father’s cause.

The Moldovan Tatiana (Veronica Novak) and her daughter Sorina (Emma Siniavski) quickly begin to have a  detrimental effect on Lucien – far from being the driven and focused activist he once was, he is now at the mercy of Tatiana’s whims. It’s a rude awakening for Babette, whose idol has been compromised, while Arnaud seems to revel in the ridiculousness of it all.

Even Tatiana is spared the evil-witch stroke of paint that so often afflicts these types of characters. She is at once sympathetically and narcissistically drawn, caring little for the family she is destroying but so devoted to the welfare of her own child that even Babette finds it difficult to blame her. Without having to delve into her Moldovan background the audience can already tell that her desperation is the result of fear.

Actress-turned-director Anne Le Ny has made some excellent choices regarding the frame of mind of a daughter and son traumatised by the blatant exploitation of their once-brilliant father. Now fragile and compromised, their reactions are entirely believable and somehow, in their quietness, all the more heartbreaking. While the children are left by the wayside, Le Ny also does a creditable job of illuminating the kind of disaster zone Lucien has inadvertently landed himself him. Struck by a newfound love, he is the dirty old man he most likely swore he’d never become. My Father’s Guests wisely chooses not to draw a straight line between right and wrong, choosing instead to analyse how compassion and love can preserve the essence of what is right even when people act in clearly immoral ways.

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