Magazine article Screen International

'Custody': Tribeca Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Custody': Tribeca Review

Article excerpt

Dir. James Lapine, USA, 2016, 104 minutes

In Custody, James Lapine takes the viewer to Family Court in Manhattan, where society's most vulnerable people face the collateral damage of good intentions every day. Justice there is imperfect, and so, unfortunately, is this film. Yet Lapine's ensemble drama feels like a project that originated with passion for its subject, which the film tries to present from many sides.

In interlocking stories that play like an episode of Law & Order with an insistent musical score, we learn how every character struggles through their life with a complicated family story. We enter the concentric circles of Custody when single mother Sara Diaz (Catalina Sandino Moreno) drags her young son, David (Jaden Michael), out of a party where children are drinking. He falls in their apartment and cuts his head. When teachers see the cut at school, they send him to the hospital. David and his sister are held while the matter is investigated.

Family Court becomes the stage for Sara's battle to get her children back, and for a range of other melodramas. Presiding over the fate of the children is Judge Martha Schulman (Viola Davis), who learns that her husband (Tony Shalhoub) is cheating on her. Weighing over the case is news that another child, under the protection of the court, has died.

The bearded overweight city prosecutor (Dan Fogler) is merciless towards Sara, but asks her lawyer Ally (Hayden Panettiere) out on a date. Meanwhile Ally herself was once abused by an uncle and learns that he is pursuing children again. …

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