2016 Blind Spot Series: Au Revoir Les Enfants
What I knew going in: Nothing. I didn't read the plot summary until right before the film started, and I picked it based on seeing it pop up on others' lists previously.
In 1944 France, Julien (Gaspard Manesse) is a young boy sent off to a Catholic boarding school during the war. He could somewhat be described as a "mama's boy." He wishes he could stay with her while his brother François (Stanislas Carré de Malberg) seems largely indifferent to being away. He's a bright kid who also tries to hide the fact that he occasionally wets the bed. But that's not the only thing he ends up hiding. A new student named Jean (Raphael Fejtö) shows up and becomes a bit of a rival to Julien. He's quiet, yet very bright and slightly better in school than Julien. He soon learns a secret about Jean, and the two become friends.
To put in perspective how good this movie really is, let me tell you about the DVD Netflix sent me. It was terrible. It had a massive scratch in it, but since I'm cutting it close to the end of the month, I watched it anyways. The dialogue didn't always match up to the character's mouths, but that wasn't the issue. The DVD actually stopped in the last chapter. It would not play. I had to search the ending on youtube and use their closed caption translation function. And even with all that, the ending was still profoundly powerful.
I'm just in awe of this movie. It's hard for kids to carry films, and you can tell Manesse and Fejtö were very green, but they make it all work. Their relationship progression felt natural. It's easy to think "not another movie set during WWII, but this doesn't even feel like that type of movie. It's instead a study on childhood friendships that mold Julien and Jean even during the horrors of war.
And I'm always here for a teacher referring to a student who wrote an essay as "a bit pretentious." That made me laugh harder than it should've.
Memorable Quote: "Goodbye, children." - Father Père Jean (Philippe Morier-Genoud)