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A Bag of Marbles

A BAG OF MARBLES

March 28 – 2PM + 7:30 PM

France, 2017 – Rated 14A – 110 minutes
French with subtitles
Directed by Christian Duguay
Cast: Dorian Le Clech, Batyste Fleurial, Patrick Bruel, Elsa Zylberstein

Canadian director Christian Duguay (Joan of Arc) explores the horrors of World War Two from the perspective of two young Jewish boys living in Nazi-occupied France in Un Sac De Billes (A Bag of Marbles).

Based on the acclaimed memoirs of the same name by Joseph Joffo, A Bag of Marbles is a lavishly shot production that is brilliantly acted and is a gut-wrenching reminder of one of history’s darkest chapters.

Following the fall of Paris to Nazi Germany during World War II, brothers Maurice (Batyste Fleurial) and Joseph (Dorian Le Clech) are forced to leave their close-knit Jewish family behind for the free-zone along the French Riviera.

With a list of strict instructions from their family, the two boys overcome extraordinary odds to be reunited with their parents and older brothers in Nice.

However, their happiness is short lived when the Nazis occupy Nice and once again the boys must be separated from their family with the hopes of eventually being reunited after the war.

The boys must use their street smart wit to outsmart the merciless Nazi officials and rely on the assistance of strangers, including the help of a Catholic Priest in order to survive.

Twelve year old Dorian Le Clech and 17 year old Batyste Felurial, are brilliant as Joseph and Maurice.

Le Clech brings plenty of doe-eyed innocence to the role of Joseph as he witnesses firsthand the atrocities of the Second World War and the merciless behaviour towards all Jews, including children like himself.

Fleurial delivers a realistic blend of innocence and suspicion as the more informed older brother, who is not as trusting and is protective of his little brother. Despite the film’s dark subject matter the two both deliver a few comedic moments and their chemistry as two brothers is incredibly realistic.

Apart from the boys’ parents, the other characters in the film are rather two dimensional. The film is scattered with the traditional war movie stereotypes and tropes; the narcissistic and arrogant Nazi official, the honourable resistance fighter and the helpful and righteous townspeople.

But these supporting characters are not given enough screen time, dialogue or substance to make them anymore dimensional or memorable than a caricature. While the film is essentially about the two brothers, it would have been beneficial to see more of these characters and how the final months of the war impacted their lives.

Some juxtaposition between the boy’s’ journey and how their family members were coping without them would have been a welcomed addition that would have packed more of an emotional punch.

Regardless, A Bag of Marbles is an emotional film that can be quite distressing to watch. Witnessing the violence to which innocent children were subjected is both confronting and disturbing, and it is even more gut-wrenching watching the film and knowing it was based on the two brothers’ real life experiences.

Despite the grim war scenes and the dark subject matter, Duguay has created a lavishly shot film that boasts stunning cinematography, lush locations and beautiful period costumes. The film beautifully balances the high stake tension with some sweet and endearing moments between the two brothers and celebrates their innocence.

A Bag of Marbles will leave you with a bag of mixed emotions and while it’s not as memorable as other World War II films, the film will still leave a profound impact on you long after you have watched it.

While the film is a dark reminder of a horrible page in our history, its heart-warming story reminds us that there are still good people in our darkest moments.

 

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