Au Revoir Les Enfants
(Goodbye, Children)

Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye, Children)
Made in: France
Language: French, German
Director: Louis Malle
Starring: Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejtö, Philippe Morier-Genoud, François Négret, Stanislas Carré de Malberg, Francine Racette
Year: 1987

Synopsis: France, 1943. Julien Quentin (Gaspard Manesse) is a young boy attending a Catholic boarding school. Although intelligent and sensitive, he projects a more streetwise exterior around his classmates.

One day, a new student named Jean Bonnet (Philippe Morier-Genoud) arrives. Although brilliant at math and piano, Jean is socially awkward and immediately picked on by the other children. Despite their common love for books, Julien and Jean don't like each other at first.

But as the school year and Second World War goes on, the two begin to bond. However, the true reason for Jean's enrollment in the school opens Julien's eyes to the horrors of war and the depths of genuine friendship forged at a time of innocence.

The Good: Based on the true childhood experiences of director Luis Malle, Au Revoir Les Enfants is a film full of familiar themes about humanity, war, and other emotional subjects that most of us already know about.

However, its presentation comes across as very genuine and personal. Within the confines of the boarding school and its rigid routine, Malle does a great job giving the viewer an up-close sense of the hardships suffered during the Nazi occupation. And all of this is accomplished without a single battle scene or act of shocking violence.

There's also a good deal of emotional intensity after Jean's secret is revealed, and the film's conclusion is pretty intense. Again, all tension is emotional, and accomplished without any gun battles or gore.

The Bad: Just a few technical issues. Some of the sound work is a little shoddy, and some of the voice re-dubbing by actors is off.

Who would like this movie:Au Revoir Les Enfants is for you if you're already an experienced viewer of foreign films, and if you like having in-depth discussions about cinema.

This is also for those who enjoy slower-paced, coming-of-age dramas that address war-time themes. This is not a story that's meant to be slick and entertaining, so watch it only if you're in the mood for something detailed, subtle, and emotional. The first half of the movie is quite slow, but really gives you the sense of actually being at the boarding school and living amongst the students.

Luis Malle does a very effective job showing, rather than telling, the audience what's happening. There's little that will be lost on the viewer, but all of the important bits unfold through careful cinematography and in between lines of dialogue.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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