Father and Son
Setin Toulouse, France, “7 Minutes” is the story of Jean, a 55 year-old policeman who discovers his son, Maxime, and his son’s boyfriend dead by hanging in a hotel room. As I watched the film, I began to wonder how a film can represent the void that a deceased person leaves behind and this is something that we have seen many times on film although usually unsuccessfully. Mastro dedicates himself to this difficult subject in “7 Minutes”. Jean (Antoine Herbez) is a 55-year-old police officer from Toulouse and learns that his son Maxime (Valentin Malguy) and his friend Kevin (Paul Arvenne) have hanged themselves in a hotel room. As viewers, we know more than Jean from the start, as we are in the hotel room with the two young men in the opening sequence. We know that Kevin died of an overdose and that Maxime, in his desperation, saw no other way than to stage a double suicide. The film shows how Jean wants to get to know his deceased son’s everyday life better. As a short phone call before Maxime’s death suggests, the two had a good relationship. The film is not one of those stories in which a parent tries to establish a connection to the alienated child only after the death. Jean’s main concern is to better understand his own son posthumously – to empathize with him and his surroundings or even to slip into his role a little and thus, somehow, to keep him alive.
Jean visits the queer club Bisou and gets closer to Fabien (Clément Naline), a friend of Maxime and Kevin. He poses as a writer and claims to want to write about the club. Fabien takes a liking to Jean, who will soon be wearing his son’s clothes and become more and more immersed in the club where being gay is primarily thought of as a shadowy existence between hedonism and elegy.
The film draws its strength from the interesting presentation of the father figure and from Antoine Herbez’s reserved performance. He enters his son’s world without evaluating it. He is looking for answers and closure. The relationship that gradually develops between him and Fabien is not (only) about the emergence of a surrogate-father-son relationship or the “rescue” of another young man as a substitute act or a seduction on the part of Fabien, which leads to the acting out of Jeans’ queer side. It is far more complex; seeming to be about the basic human need to give and receive affection. Herbez embodies his role poignantly and makes the desire to give love tangible. His world collapsed when he learned of the death of his son Maxime and what exactly happened in those minutes. And why did his son have to die?
As good as the relationship between father and son may have been, we question how well do we know another person. What do we really know about him, even after years with him? In the beginning, “7 Minutes” seems to want to go in this direction when Jean sneaks a place in the world of Maxime under a false name. The fact that Jean is a police officer makes the investigation plausible, especially since the double death seems puzzling. However, this is not a crime thriller since we know from the beginning what happened.
The search for truth is put aside; the film does not attempt to capitalize on the tragedy of the events. One can wonder about it, find it good or bad, just as much of the film leaves one with a vague feeling. What Mastro wants to say or achieve with the film is incomprehensible for viewer and for Jean. Because if he gets involved with Fabien, gradually becomes a different person, then one can speculate strongly why this is happening now.
Jean shows no shyness during his tour of discovery— he is driven by a mixture of sadness and curiosity, as well as the longing to be close to his son. That can also mean imitating his life. It is not clear whether this is successful or not. The film leaves a lot unsaid and is not as cathartic as other films like this. It’s an interesting variation on a story that you thought you already knew.