Take 3: Au revoir les enfants Review + 165 & 170 Follower Thank You

At the beginning of the month, my blog received 165 followers! While I was figuring out which movie I would review, I was creating a new blogging schedule for myself. Several days ago, 18 Cinema Lane received its 170th follower! So, for this blog follower dedication review, I decided to write about one movie while acknowledging both milestones. I chose to talk about a French film called Au revoir les enfants! Foreign films are rarely talked about when it comes to these specific reviews. In fact, the first one I discussed was Vampyr last October. Au revoir les enfants has also been on my DVR since last February. So, I thought these reasons would be a good excuse to finally watch this film! While Vampyr is a French and German production, I have reviewed a French film on this blog before. For Clean Movie Month, I talked about the 1950 project, Les Enfants Terribles. Will my thoughts on Au revoir les enfants be similar to those on the aforementioned French film I reviewed last year? You’ll just have to read this post if you want to find the answer!

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I chose to use this poster for the review because it verifies that I, indeed, watched this film. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Movies that have young actors make up the majority of the cast can be hit-or-miss. In the case of Au revoir les enfants, this aspect worked in the film’s favor! All of the young actors were not only allowed to act their age, but they were able to work alongside other actors within their age group. This made their performances feel genuine and realistic. Speaking of realism, I noticed that all of the character portrayals and the situations showcased in the movie appeared like it came directly from real-life. It gave these elements a sense of authenticity. Because this film is based on a true story, the creative team’s focus on making the characters and situations look and feel believable seemed to be taken very seriously.

 

The historical accuracy: This film takes place in early 1944. Because of this, all of the material elements of the project looked like it came directly from that period in time. The wardrobe of all the characters feature articles of clothing that one would likely find within the mid ‘40s. The architecture of the boarding school shows off the preserved interior and exterior style from an era gone by. Even the finer details of the picture, such as the books, feel like relics of that specific year. While watching this film, I noticed the way the characters spoke also reflected the time period. Whenever subjects related to World War II were brought up, it was done in a very subtle way. Even though this was a period film, I never felt like I was being talked down to or like the movie was treating itself like a history lesson. If anything, I felt like I was watching a moment in time.

 

The presentation of the subtitles: How the subtitles are presented in foreign films is very important. If they can be seen clearly, it allows the audience to better understand what the characters are saying. I liked how the subtitles were showcased in Au revoir les enfants! While all of the text was white, it was presented against backgrounds that were dark in hue. The very first scene in the movie is a great example of this. The station and train itself adopted colors of black and gray. None of the characters in this scene wore bright colors. Because of this creative decision, I never had a difficult time reading the subtitles.

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Hanukkah mehorah image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/mehorah-with-flaming-candles_3299423.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like the film:

A weak plot: The more movies I watch, the more I realize that “slice of life” stories aren’t my thing. That’s because I don’t find them to be as intriguing as other cinematic stories. That’s what the majority of Au revoir les enfants is: a “slice of life” story. To me, it didn’t contain as much interest as it could have. It felt like the screenwriter put so much emphasis on the premise of Julien and Jean’s relationship, that there was nothing else to offer in the narrative.

 

A somewhat mis-leading premise: In the synopsis I read for this movie, it said the film was about a Catholic boy and a Jewish boy becoming friends during World War II. However, the friendship aspect of their relationship isn’t portrayed until about the last twenty minutes of the film. Julien and Jean spend most of the movie apart than together. In fact, Julien starts off not liking Jean as a person. Julien does become nicer to Jean as the film progresses. When this does happen, it just makes them seem like acquaintances more than anything.

 

Situations being shown, but not explained: Throughout Au revoir les enfants, there are situations shown on screen that aren’t given explanations. One example is when Julien pokes his hand with a compass. As he is doing this, he tells the classmate sitting next to him how it doesn’t hurt. Not only was this action never explained, but it’s never referenced again in the movie. Julien’s action didn’t seem to serve a purpose for his character development or the overall narrative. Moments like this one happened at several moments in the film and I found myself being frustrating by them.

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Illustration of Paris, France created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/travel”>Travel vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before I share my final thoughts on this film, I want to thank each and every one of the followers! 18 Cinema Lane would not be the success it is today without you. Now, on to my overall impression of Au revoir les enfants! Personally, I thought it was just ok. The movie does have merits that are earned, as well as a plot twist that works. But the overall project could have been stronger. As I mentioned in my review, Au revoir les enfants is based on a true story. It felt like the creative team approached the narrative as respectfully as possible. Because the creation of the movie was handled with a sense of reverence, it allowed the film to have the emotional weight it contained. The realism of the acting and writing gave me a reason to stay invested in what the characters were saying and doing. I’m not often given opportunities to watch and review French films. However, I’m glad I chosen this movie for my latest blog follower dedication review!

 

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

 

What are your thoughts on my review? Are there any French films you’d like to see me review? Tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s In Love and War Review

For The World War II Blogathon, I wanted to talk about a film that no one else had chosen. With this idea in mind, I figured that if anyone was going to review a Hallmark movie, I knew it was, highly likely, going to be me. More often than not, Hallmark Hall of Fame films have told cinematic stories surrounding World War II. Out of all the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies that would be eligible for this blogathon, In Love and War is one that I hadn’t seen. This particular film is based on a true story, using a memoir by Eric Newby as the basis for the cinematic narrative. Within the past five years, true stories are rarely found in Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations. Since this is the first Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I’ve reviewed that does feature a true story, I knew it would a treat for my readers and followers!

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Yes, I purchased a copy of this film so I could write an honest review about it. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Things I liked about the film:

The acting: More often than not, Hallmark Hall of Fame movies are known for having talented casts. In Love and War is no exception to this tradition! Callum Blue did a really good job portraying Eric Newby. With believability and versatility, his character was awestruck by the beauty within his surroundings, while not being fazed by reality. Callum effectively portrayed a soldier who hadn’t been too hardened by war and tragedy. I also enjoyed seeing Barbora Bobulova’s performance! She portrayed Wanda, the woman who stole Eric’s heart. Barbora had a very pleasant on-screen presence and flawlessly pulled off an Italian accent. She also used a wide range of emotions, making her character seem as realistic as possible. These are just some of the reasons why her performance was very memorable.

The scenery: The Italian countryside is the only location featured in this film. Despite that fact, the movie’s creative team used this environment to their advantage, especially when it came to story-telling. Even though war had cast a shadow on Wanda’s town, it never lost its quaint charm on screen. This picturesque setting showed that restoring peace in the world could be possible. Seeing the fields and farmlands in the film showed a different perspective of this particular country. When the Italian countryside is incorporated into cinematic stories, it seems like it is, more often than not, romanticized. It also makes it feel like this location can never be touched by the harshness of reality. In Love and War’s scenery was pretty to look at, but it also shows that no space is safe from such a catastrophic event.

The on-screen chemistry: Even though Callum and Barbora were not on screen together for very long, they did have good on-screen chemistry. Eric and Wanda’s relationship was very sweet, containing the amount of sentimentality that makes sense for a Hallmark production. Whenever they spent time together, these characters seemed to truly care about one another. Despite coming from two different backgrounds, their love for each other was able to help them find a common ground. Through communication and understanding, Eric and Wanda were able to learn about the other person as well as about themselves. Because Callum and Barbora’s acting performances were good, they were successfully able to bring these elements to their characters.

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Italian countryside image created by Bill Silvermintz at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Bill Silvermintz.” Photo by <a href=”/photographer/edudflog-58908″>Bill Silvermintz</a> from <a href=”https://freeimages.com/”>FreeImages</a&gt;.

What I didn’t like about the film:
Low stakes: Throughout the film, Eric becomes  a Prisoner of War and tries to escape from the clutches of the Nazis. However, all of the stakes in this movie felt low. When Eric and his team become prisoners, their situation doesn’t appear or feel harsh. Even when Eric did experience a harsh condition, the effects were temporary. The clear and present danger, which were the Nazis, appeared in the film when it was convenient for the plot. It seemed like Eric wasn’t in as much danger as the movie wanted us, the audience, to think.

An imbalance between peace and conflict: Hallmark films are known for containing a good amount of positivity and making their audience feel good about the film they’re watching. But because In Love and War largely focused on the movie’s more peaceful moments, it made the moments involving conflict seem sparse. This flaw contributes to the previous problem that I just talked about: lower stakes. It also doesn’t create a healthy balance between the two ideas. The imbalance between peace and conflict made the “war” part of In Love and War seem like a distant aspect of the story.

No action: Everyone’s story from the time of  World War II is going to be different. Since the film’s story is about a member of the military who entered enemy territory, having no action in the film makes it feel like something is missing. Not only were there no battles, but there was no fighting in sight. The only scene that involved any amount of military action was when an enemy plane flew over Eric and his comrades. However, this scene ended up being very brief.

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The World War II Blogathon banner created by Jay from Cinema Essentials & Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Image found at https://maddylovesherclassicfilms.wordpress.com/2019/04/29/announcing-the-ww2-blogathon/.

My overall impression:

The two most common cinematic stories surrounding World War II involve the American perspective and the Holocaust. While these stories are important, it can feel like other World War II related stories get overshadowed. In Love and War takes a unique approach to this subject, focusing on the British and Italian perspectives. Through these perspectives, interesting ideas get the chance to be expressed. Some examples are standing against group mentality, relying on the kindness of strangers, and changing a person’s way of thinking. As a film about this particular time-period, I liked In Love and War for what it was. At best, this is a decent movie that has its strengths. But, as a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, it didn’t leave as big of an emotional impact as other films from this collection have. I will say that this film is a good introduction to not only Hallmark Hall of Fame, but also to Hallmark movies in general. If someone likes a particular aspect of the movie, they will be able to find other Hallmark films that share similarities.

 

Overall score: 7 out of 10

 

What are your thoughts on World War II in film? Which Hallmark Hall of Fame movie do you like? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen