Toto the Hero (1991)
"Toto le héros" (original title)

PG-13  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  19 June 1991 (France)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 4,026 users  
Reviews: 26 user | 11 critic

Thomas and Alfred were born around the same time; a fire in the nursery had nurses scrambling to save the newborns. Because he felt that he deserved Alfred's good fortune at being born into... See full summary »



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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 16 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Thomas, as an old man
Jo De Backer ...
Thomas, as an adult
Thomas Godet ...
Thomas, as a child
Gisela Uhlen ...
Evelyne as an old woman
Mireille Perrier ...
Evelyne as young woman
Sandrine Blancke ...
Peter Böhlke ...
Alfred as an old man
Didier Ferney ...
Alfred, as an adult
Hugo Harold-Harrison ...
Alfred, as a child
Fabienne Loriaux ...
Thomas' Mother
Klaus Schindler ...
Thomas' Father
Pascal Duquenne ...
Celestin, as an adult
Karim Moussati ...
Celestin, as a child
Didier De Neck ...
Mr. Kant
Christine Smeysters ...
Mrs. Kant


Thomas and Alfred were born around the same time; a fire in the nursery had nurses scrambling to save the newborns. Because he felt that he deserved Alfred's good fortune at being born into a wealthy family, Thomas conceives the idea that he and Alfred were switched at birth, and he can't help seeing that his unhappiness should be Alfred's, from the loss of his sister to his inability to have a relationship with the woman Evelyne. So, as his life is ending, he formulates a plan of revenge against his bitter enemy, his lifetime adversary, the man who stole his existence. Written by Gary Dickerson <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

dream | fire | revenge | birth | neighbor | See All (269) »


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for violence and sensuality (nudity) | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




| |


Release Date:

19 June 1991 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Totò the Hero  »

Box Office


$1,228,153 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


As some of the locations were rather remote (particularly the unguarded railway crossing at Sint Amands), much of the technical crew and equipment was carried on the train. See more »


References Vertigo (1958) See more »


Music and Lyrics by Charles Trenet
Performed by Charles Trenet
Societe EMI France
(c) Edition Vianelly
See more »

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User Reviews

The Genius of Small Things
3 August 2001 | by (Leeds, West Yorkshire, England) – See all my reviews

Jaco van Dormael, I love you. When I first saw this film in a dilapidated arts cinema in Cambridge on a cold winter's night, I wasn't expecting much. The only review I'd read was mildly sniffy. It was French, it was about la condition humaine. I thought it'd be a reasonable way to pass a couple of hours.

When I emerged from that dark pit of a cinema, I felt, at least for a while, as if my eyesight had been transformed. As we walked back to my friend's flat, I became fixated on one thing after another - the rain upon the cobbles, the light on the church, the darkness of the sky - I felt about five years old all over again. Since then, this film has never been out of my top five. And probably never will.

That is not say it's perfect. It's message is perhaps a little too bleak for my liking, and it does indulge itself in the precept that life it utterly meaningless. But how the visuals of the film contradict that sentiment! Every shot filled with colour, with life, with imagination.

In a way, Toto is an old-fashioned film - a thriller in the Third Man/Citizen Kane mold - a complex story unfolding in a semi-linear fashion, in this case throughout one man's whole life. Dour realism this certainly ain't. A wonderfully naive 40s (?) style chanson reappears, as the adult 'Van Chickensoup' watches his dead father sing from the back of a truck in front of him. Flowers sway in time to the song. The child truly believes that his father met his mother by landing in the garden from a parachute. Scene after scene of joyful play follow each other.

But this is no art-house foppery. This is a tight, mean, well-constructed tale about the feeling that dogs us all - is this all life is? Could I have been happier as someone else? Are they happier than me? Am I lucky or unlucky? And most importantly, this: Why, when life seems so hard at times, can we find so much joy in small things, in a flower, or a kiss, or crazy weather, or new clothes?

Forget the French subtitles, a fact that seems to put off so many North American and British viewers, forget the 'art-house' tag. I own this film and have shown it to scores of friends, all of whom have walked away astonished at its vision. I assure you that you will love this film.

It's alright, you don't have to thank me, spreading the word is enough. ;-) Watch it today! And then watch the Eighth Day, Van Dormael's astonishing second feature.

28 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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