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Childhood of a Leader, The


Stars: Tom Sweet, Bérénice Bejo, Liam Cunningham, Robert Pattinson, Stacy Martin

Director: Brady Corbet

Prizes will be awarded to anyone who can tell me what this is about. It's the childhood of a leader, we're told, but which leader would that be?

Toi the accompaniment of screeching, deafening music, we're introduced to the stifling household in the French countryside leased to a high-ranking American politician (Cunningham), his German-born wife (Bejo) and their hyper-sensiitive son (Sweet), who has long hair, but erupts into fury if anyone thinks he's a girl.

The action is divided into 'Tantrums 1, 2 and 3', followed by 'A new era', during which the boy becomes increasingly vehement and withdrawn, and the mother, knowing her husband to be a philanderer, increasingly paranoid.

The boy turns questions back on the questioner, and refuses to conform to any of the family's demands. The mother sacks her elderly housekeeper, who swears vengeance on the family, although this, like much else in the film, never comes to anything. The maid is also dismissed and, when the boy demonstrates he's teaching himself French, his tutor (Martin) goes too.

Violence is obviously bubbling under the surface of this ménage and emerges briefly at the end, although it leads us nowhere. And, unless I missed it, the names of the family are never revealed.

Photographed almost entirely in brown, black and white, admittedly with impressively painterly images, the film plods ponderously to a bewildering conclusion: hopes of some blinding revelation are destined to be dashed. Pretentious? Well, it certainly is that.

Roberts Pattinson is also in here somewhere, although not for very long.

David Quinlan

UK/France/Hungary 2015. UK Distributor: Metrodome. Colour (unspecified).
115 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 15 Aug 2016