Based on true events, this sombre Belgian drama begins in a low key that swells sickeningly into tragedy. Murielle (Emilie Dequenne) and Mounir (Tahar Rahim) fall in love and marry, their domestic arrangements quietly controlled by the latter's adoptive father (Niels Arestrup), a well-off family doctor.
Three daughters are born, the doctor's house gets crowded, and the couple, not quite secure in their dependence on their benefactor, start to argue. Mounir's family in Morocco – an ailing mother, a resentful brother – stir the mood of unease deeper.
Writer-director Joachim Lafosse handles the progress of disaffection with elegant ambiguity; who is to blame in this toxic atmosphere of chauvinism, neurosis and manipulation?
Rahim and Arestrup, reuniting after A Prophet, play off one another expertly, though the burden of meaning lies with Dequenne as the mother driven to distraction – A Perdre la Raison is its proper title – by the cuckoo in the marital nest. Certain shots are notable for a painterly beauty.
The sequence of Murielle summoning her kids to bed, on the other hand, conjures an unforgettable, Haneke- like sense of horror. This is film-making of a very high order.