In The Heir, a tantalizing mental suspense story enriched with genuine psychological elements, Ellias Barnès (portrayed by Marc-André Grondin), a couturier stationed in Paris, teeters on the edge of a significant professional milestone. A vital role at the renowned fashion institution, Orsino, awaits him after the demise of its legendary founder. Under different circumstances, perhaps in a narrative centred around ruthless business endeavours or ancient Roman political drama, this would be the juncture where Ellias inherits power. Instead, he experiences overwhelming trepidation, grasping his chest in discomfort, as law enforcement representatives approach him.
For over ten years, Ellias has tirelessly worked to sever ties with his progenitor, Jean-Jacques, keeping a considerable distance. After his remarkable individual display at Orsino, fate delivers a darkly humorous twist: Jean-Jacques has passed away, leaving Ellias as the sole individual responsible for settling his affairs. This responsibility befalls him right after losing his mentor in the fashion industry, compelling him to confront his past in Montreal, a city he had hoped to dissociate from his carefully crafted identity.
Upon his arrival in his birthplace, Ellias uncovers horrifying truths about Jean-Jacques that he must now shoulder, sending shockwaves through his system and resulting in physical reactions, including incontinence.
The revelation forces Ellias into a position eerily similar to his father’s, implicating him in an unspeakable felony. On the surface, viewing The Heir is a hair-raising experience. However, when perceived through a metaphorical lens, it becomes evident that Xavier Legrand, the storyteller and director, has meticulously woven a narrative that serves as a scathing critique of toxic masculinity and authoritative dominance.
Legrand, initially an actor and even taking minor roles in works like Au Revoir les Enfants by Louis Malle, shifted gears to movie making, garnering attention and accolades for his works such as the Oscar-nominated short Just Before Losing Everything and the critically acclaimed Custody. Both movies explore themes of domestic violence, spotlighting the plight of a mother and her offspring fleeing from a menacing paternal figure, with Legrand’s storytelling bringing a visceral reality to the screen.
In The Heir, moral dynamics are murkier, and Ellias, the central figure, is not easily empathized with due to his complex personality. Initially, audiences might feel that Ellias might have been excessively severe in estranging his biological father, a sentiment subtly suggested by Jean-Jacques’ sole acquaintance, Dominique (enacted by Yves Jacques). However, as the narrative unfolds, it becomes clear why Ellias wanted to distance himself from his modest beginnings and Jean-Jacques.
Despite the universal theme, the Movie’s structured and distant narrative style barely allows the audience to connect with Ellias’ grief. The unexpected narrative curveball, handled delicately by Legrand, manages to engage the audience without resorting to predictable horror tropes. It is a delicate balancing act for Grondin, as he has to embody a character who has deliberately suppressed part of his identity.
Legrand’s narrative structure masterfully combines genre elements with rich subtext, subtly exposing the unspoken dynamics between characters and their unexecuted actions, revealing the frailty and vulnerability of human nature.
The audience is left pondering why Ellias decides not to involve law enforcement immediately. Is it an attempt to safeguard his father’s name, or is he more concerned about the potential repercussions on his own flourishing career? The Heir is bound to spark discussions, and certain narrative choices may lead to divisive opinions among viewers. From Ellias’ viewpoint, the seemingly kind Dominique becomes increasingly dubious, adding another layer of complexity to the narrative.
The Heir could have taken a more accessible approach, but by ensnaring Ellias in his father’s dark past, it challenges the viewers to not only reflect on individual wrongdoings but also critique the broader societal structures enabling such actions. Source