The charismatic Gregori (Vincent Cassel) saunters into a hospital maternity ward and charms new mother Susanna. Eleven years later, she and her son Alexander live in Gregori’s closed community, sheltering vulnerable women and their brood in a haven isolated from the outside world. Alexander is Gregori’s prize pupil, eldest son, and star employee in the cottage industry—in which the kids are trained to run dangerous errands to provide for the group—but Gregori feels threatened by the boy’s inquisitive nature, struck by the fear that his child might not love him anymore. Meanwhile, Alexander begins to think for himself.
In his feature debut, Ariel Kleiman (a 2011 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner for his short film Deeper Than Yesterday) crisply constructs a fascinating hidden world, then casts innocuous moments, such as a karaoke party or a child playing with a paintball gun, in increasingly sinister light. This juxtaposition cleverly deepens and undermines our understanding of this seemingly idyllic makeshift family. —H.Z.
Ariel Kleiman's short film Young Love screened at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and won an Honorable Mention in Short Filmmaking. His subsequent short film Deeper Than Yesterday premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and won the Kodak Discovery Award for Best Short Film and the Petit Rail d'Or; it also won the Jury Prize in International Filmmaking at Sundance in 2011. Partisan is Kleiman's debut feature film, starring Vincent Cassel.