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- Marco Chimenz, Co-CEO of Italy’s Cattleya the prominent ITV-owned outfit behind “Gomorrah” and “ZeroZeroZero,” will be leaving the company in January to join pan-European powerhouse Federation Studios. At Federation Chimenz will serve as group co-managing director of the expanding production and distribution studio that currently comprises 35 production companies, working closely with founder and CEO Pascal Breton and Federation co-director Lionel Uzan. Founded in 2013, Federation is a production, financing and distribution studio with subsidiaries and associate production companies based in Paris, Los Angeles, Rome, Madrid, Berlin, Cologne, London, Brussels and Tel Aviv. The group’s best-known titles include “The Bureau,” “In Treatment,” “Baby,” “Hostages,” “Marseille,” “Bad Banks,” “Your Honor,” and “Around the World in 80 Days.”
In the realm of psychological thrillers, where suspense often takes precedence over substance, “The Successor” emerges as a breath of fresh air. Directed by Xavier Legrand, this Parisian offering delves deep into the human psyche, serving up a captivating narrative laden with complex characters and the chilling consequences of unresolved family secrets.
At the heart of “The Successor” is Ellias Barnès, brought to life by the talented Marc-André Grondin, a fashion designer on the cusp of a career-defining moment. Positioned to ascend as the creative director of the prestigious haute couture house Orsino, Ellias stands at the precipice of success. In a different narrative, this could have been a triumphant tale of corporate ambition akin to the hit series “Succession,” or perhaps an intricate web of palace intrigue. However, “The Successor” takes a decidedly different route.
As Ellias stands poised to claim his throne in the world of fashion, he’s gripped by a sudden and overwhelming anxiety. It’s a visceral reaction, a feeling of impending doom that prompts him to clutch his chest in distress. And then, without warning, the police arrive, turning his world upside down.
For over a decade, Ellias has painstakingly distanced himself from his biological father, Jean-Jacques. He’s created a life that is entirely separate from the shadow of his paternal legacy. However, life has a cruel sense of timing, and just after Ellias’s stunning solo fashion show for Orsino, he receives devastating news—his father is dead, and there’s no one else to take care of his estate. In an instant, the carefully constructed walls that separated Ellias from his past come crashing down.
Taking a leave of absence to return to Montreal, a place he’d rather keep hidden from his peers, Ellias stumbles upon a terrible revelation about his father. A revelation so horrifying that it becomes Ellias’s burden to bear. The audience is left with a sinking feeling as Ellias finds himself assuming a role that is, to put it mildly, morally reprehensible.
Literal interpretation of “The Successor” leaves viewers with a spine-tingling, chilling experience. However, the film’s power lies in its metaphorical implications. Xavier Legrand, who has previously demonstrated his ability to capture the raw intensity of domestic violence in works like “Just Before Losing Everything” and “Custody,” takes a different approach here. Instead of framing the story from the perspective of victims seeking escape, he challenges viewers to empathize with a far more enigmatic character.
In the opening moments of the film, it’s easy to view Ellias as unfairly harsh in his estrangement from his father. This perception is further fueled by Jean-Jacques’ seemingly only friend, Dominique, portrayed by Yves Jacques, who implies that Ellias’s ambition has distanced him from his middle-class upbringing. This notion of distance from one’s roots is a universal theme, but Legrand weaves it into a meticulously staged narrative that leaves little room for Ellias to grieve.
The film’s tension simmers beneath the surface, driven by unspoken words and difficult choices. Ellias’s actions, including a swift decision to donate all of his father’s possessions to charity, reflect the conflicted terrain of his emotions. However, it’s the carefully executed twist in the story that truly elevates “The Successor” to the realm of psychological mastery. Legrand avoids cheap jump scares, instead relying on the audience’s emotional investment in a character who is distant and unlikable yet undeniably compelling.
Grondin’s portrayal of Ellias is nuanced and challenging. He must embody a character who has deliberately suppressed a significant part of his identity. Even as an employee at the funeral home recognizes him from fashion school, Ellias remains aloof, revealing an uncomfortable tension between his past and present self.
As the film unfolds, questions emerge about Ellias’s motivations for withholding vital information from the authorities. Is he protecting his father’s legacy? Or is his own career advancement his primary concern? “The Successor” thrives on this ambiguity, and its narrative choices are guaranteed to spark debate among viewers. A split-second decision during a pivotal moment might even alienate a portion of the audience, but it is precisely this boldness that makes the film stand out.
In the end, “The Successor” implicates its audience not only in the sins of the father but also in the systemic failings that perpetuate these sins. It’s a gripping and thought-provoking exploration of the burdens we inherit and the moral complexities of confronting our pasts. Xavier Legrand has crafted a film that challenges conventions and leaves a lasting impression, not only for its thrilling suspense but for its deep and unsettling exploration of the human condition. “The Successor” is a haunting reminder that the past is never truly buried; it lingers, waiting to resurface when we least expect it.