The Child star Jérémie Renier again grapples with fatherhood in The Great Man, a drama of war’s aftermath, though before such paternal struggles can manifest themselves, Sarah Leonor’s film divides its time between Renier’s Hamilton and his French Legionnaires mate Markov (Surho Sugaipov).
Split into chapters whose titles speak to the characters’ ever-shifting circumstances, Leonor’s tale follows Hamilton and Markov as they track a wild leopard in Afghanistan and then, after being injured and discharged, attempt to fashion lives back home in France, where things prove particularly difficult for Markov, who’s really an illegal immigrant from Chechnya named Mourad Massaev.
As he tries to rekindle a relationship with his ten-year-old son, Khadji (Ramzan Idiev), whom he hasn’t seen in five years, Markov soon finds a way to gain employment via some ID-trickery help from Hamilton, and the film finds its footing during its beautifully shot middle stretches involving Markov’s attempts to define his (and his son’s) place in a country that doesn’t truly want them. A second-act tragedy, however, eventually shifts attention toward Hamilton, to the material’s minor detriment.
While Renier embodies his PTSD-afflicted soldier as a man similarly out of sync with his surroundings, his heartfelt performance isn’t enough to overshadow the fact that this often incisive look at modern identity confusion and redefinition loses its dramatic momentum long before its finale.
The Great Man
Directed by Sarah Leonor
Opens August 14, Film Society of Lincoln Center