“La Forêt de Mon Pere” is a Belgian film exploring the difficult and painful effects of mental illness on a family.
Jimmy (Alban Lenoir) is married with a wife and three children including 15-year-old Gina (Léonie Souchaud). Initially Jimmy seems eccentric as we first encounter him sitting up in a tree in the forest with his daughter Gina. He is inciteful and very attuned with the forest. A regular likeable guy. But his behaviour becomes more eccentric and indicative of some serious mental illness so his wife takes Jimmy to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation and for what she thinks is a rest. It may well be she has committed him.
The short rest turns into days and his wife Carole (Ludwine Sagnier) and children miss him but there are no indications he will be returning soon. It would seem Jimmy is psychotic. Witness the cruelty and rigidity of this psychiatric institution where visits and interactions are restricted presumably for the “patient’s good”. The institution likes to keep Jimmy highly sedated so as Gina and her boy pal Nico break into the institution to rescue him Jimmy is so heavily sedated he is going nowhere.
At this point Gina realizes the extent of her father’s illness and breaks into sobs.
Jimmy did show up one afternoon at home to the delight of his family and on the spur of the moment decides to go on a two-day family vacation but increases the speed of the car the family is in then says he is going to kill them all which he does not as his family sings him a song that calms him down. Upon returning home the police are waiting for Jimmy to forcibly take him back not even having the decency to let his family say good-bye.
Mental illness can be cruel to its sufferer but it can be sometimes even crueller to the family and community.
While all indications Jimmy is lost in the forest of his mind Gina retains hope that he will return.
The acting is spot on with a solid cast. An impressive and sensitive effort of novice feature film director Vero Cratzborn. This 2019 ninety-minute Belgian film is in French with English subtitles, The 2021 Canadian European Union Film Festival is virtual and runs from November 12-28. You can check out the Festival’s website at https://www.cfi-icf.ca/euff