GENERATING a highly unusual, visually arresting blend of pathos and playfulness, Valerie Donzelli’s Cannes-feted feature is unique in its setting: a drama that mirrors real life, with Donzelli and her partner Jeremie Elkaim reliving their own experience on screen.
Much of the film’s charm lies in the ability of its two leads to portray – very convincingly, of course – the identifiable setting in which the audience finds itself in. The couple are an everyday professional pair: successful, healthy, prone to the odd party, social with friends and family.
When the dreaded news is delivered, a seismic shift takes place. Both ultimately decide to quit their work – and eventually, even their most cherished relationships – to focus entirely on the well-being of their child, who must endure costly round-the-clock care in hospital. They even give up their home, and move in to look after their boy, 24-seven.
As the recent Australia-wide Alliance Francaise French Film Festival showed, cinema from the tricolor nation has taken intriguing steps in recent years: to explore issues of sex, race, politics and religion. Even France’s then-current president, Jacques Sarkozy, found himself the subject of an unflattering biopic last year: a scenario unheard of in France, until now.
Donzelli’s film is a brave one, given its subject matter and biographical nature. That she’s presented it in such a creative yet digestible way makes it all the more approachable for audiences to savour.
Critical Rating: 4/5.
DECLARATION OF WAR is now showing in cinemas.
First published in Empire Australasia.