Picks and Pans Review: How I Killed My Father

updated 09/09/2002 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/09/2002 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Charles Berling, Michel Bouquet

Potential patricides, seeking how-to tips should know that the title, How I Killed My Father, is not to be taken literally. No actual murder is committed in this icily elegant psychological drama (in French, with subtitles), though the protagonist, a successful 40-year-old doctor, and his long-absent father, also a physician, do end up tussling on the ground with the son's hands around Dad's throat and a murderous gleam in his eyes. How did the two reach this Oedipal pass?

The son, Jean-Luc (Berling), appears to have everything: a chic though barren wife (Natacha R├ęgnier), a splendid home, a lucrative practice, a chauffeur and a mistress. But when his father (Bouquet, who's eloquently austere) shows up and starts scratching at the gleaming surface of Jean-Luc's life, the rot beneath is revealed. Cue the wrestling match. With Father, cowriter-director Anne Fontaine (Dry Cleaning) has made an intriguing film that raises more questions than it answers (how Gauling) about the never ending need for parental approval. (Not rated)

Bottom Line: Well executed

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