PG Cooper: Au Revoir Les Enfants Review

Posted: August 10, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Film Club Reviews

As can be predicated from the title, Au revoir les enfants is a French film, one revolving around a boarding school in Nazi-occupied France in 1943. The film focuses extensively on the relationship between two boys, Julien (Gaspard Manesse) and Jean (Raphaël Fejtö). Jean is new to the school, and is at first picked on by some of the kids. Overtime though, he and Julien begin to form a strong friendship, though there relationship is tested by the boys past and the political climate of the time.

Writer/director Louis Malle uses a very reserved style throughout the film. He does not rely on gimmicks or tricks, he simply allows the story to unfold. As much as I respect that style of making movies, it did make the first third of the film a little hard to get into. Not that the first third was bad or anything, in fact it was on the whole well made, it’s just that it took me a little while to really get into the story. I did however consistently appreciate the tone of the film. By showing the day to day routine of the characters, their boarding school feels like a real place where people actually live. This, combined with the historical context, led to me being really immersed in the film’s setting.

The film’s story eventually really grabbed me too. Once the film began to really focus on Julien and Jean’s relationship, I found myself becoming very invested. I enjoyed watching their relationship grow from unease and distrust to eventually becoming a heartfelt friendship. I also became really attached to these characters, and no small part thanks to the performances from actors Gaspard Manesse and Raphaël Fejtö. The story hits it’s peak though at the climax which is one of the most thrilling and heartbreaking scenes I’ve seen in any film for a long time. Despite the fact that little music or stylistic devices are used, the story is so engrossing that it doesn’t need any assistance in creating drama.

The first third is a little too cold, and I feel the supporting cast could have used more development, but overall, Au revoir les enfants is a great film, one which I look forward to re-visiting eventually. It’s well-made, well acted, interesting, and features one of the most moving endings I’ve seen to a film in a long time.

Rating: A-

  1. vinnieh says:

    Interesting review, I’ve been trying to watch more foreign language films lately so thanks for reminding me of this one

  2. The ending simply floored me. Well, the whole thing was pretty captivating, but that ending…Wow.

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