Custody (2016) Movie Review

Director: James Lapine

Writer: James Lapine (Screenplay)

Starring: Viola Davis, Hayden Panettiere, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Tony Shalhoub, Ellen Burstyn, Raul Esparza, Dan Fogler, Haden Michael

Plot: The lives of three women are unexpectedly changed when they cross paths at a New York Family Court.

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Smart Courtroom Drama

Story: Custody starts when Sara Diaz (Moreno) sees her kid Davis (Michael) getting injured in the house, the school being concerned arrange for social services to take the children away to assess the situation. Ally Fisher (Panettiere) a rookie lawyer is assigned to the case, with judge Martha Schulman (Davis) taking the case, while still being haunted by a case which went horribly wrong.

As the case starts, Sara is left feeling helpless with not being able to see her children, while Martha is going through her own personal problems with her husband’s affair, with Ally needing to learn how to connect with the clients better, with all three looking to find the best solution for the children.

Thoughts on Custody

Characters – Martha Schulman is the judge for the case, she has been handling potential child abuse cases for years, she has just experienced one of the worst outcomes which is covering the news, her husband has been cheating on her and her son is at the college trying to decide his own future, she is strict in court, fair with both sides, always putting the children first. Ally Fisher is the young lawyer assigned to the case with Sarah, she has come from a privileged background where she has always walked into education. She starts off being distant from Sara before learning how to connect with a client, can help with the case. Sara Diaz is the hard working single mother raising two kids, she is accused of the abuse of her son, leading to the case against her being built, she must comply with the system if she is ever going to get her kids back, however difficult it will be for her.

PerformancesViola Davis is always wonderful to watch in any role, she does bring the judge to life, while balancing the troubles she has been going through in the personal life. Hayden Panettiere is great to, it is good to see her step away from many of the teen styled roles she was known for, with Catalina Sandino Moreno showing us just how difficult having her kids taken away would be for any mother.

StoryThe story here follows the case around a potential abuse case in New York, we have the mother who is fighting to get her kids back, a judge whose life is spinning out of control and a young lawyer who must learn how to process the system before losing an important case. This story does highlight how an abuse case can become something even if it started out as an accident, how the system however difficult it might be for somebody innocent, is in place to help make sure children are safe over anything else. We can see how the people in position of power will need to learn how to keep the cases out of their personal lives too. We might only see one case, but we can see how the system is getting held down with the pure number it is dealing with too.

SettingsThe film uses the settings well, the hearing rooms work well for trying to help us understand how this isn’t at the serious level it could be, while the home environments, show us just how the three women are living.


Scene of the Movie – The final hearing.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We could learn or see more about how the bad case has truly affected the people involved.

Final Thoughts This is an important look at the process in which abuse hearings are dealt with, while it shows us how this might never have needed to go that far, it points out just how important it is to make sure.

Overall: Important.