Put in charge of his young son, Alain leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Alain's bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident.
A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer's disease.
Roméo and Juliette are two young actors. They fall in love at first sight, move in together and make a baby. A love story and the founding of a home like millions of others. Except that their little boy, Adam, behaves abnormally. The young parents try hard to persuade themselves that everything is okay but, with the passing of time, they cannot delude themselves anymore : their son has problem. Their fears are unfortunately confirmed : Adam suffers from a malignant brain tumor. From now on, war is declared. A war against illness. A war against Death. A war against despair. Written by
Intimate, affecting portrayal of a couple's struggle to survive
This film is the story of a couple whose only son (Adam) is diagnosed with cancer, but it's by no means a weepie, as from very early in the film, we learn that Adam pulls through. So, what does this leave us with? Well, perhaps more interestingly, the movie becomes more about Roméo (Jérémie Elkaïm) and Juliette's (Valérie Donzelli) struggle to stay together. With knowledge of Adam's safety in the bank, we can concentrate on the two main protagonists, and whether they will be able to survive as a unit.
The film is also scripted by the pair, and directed by Donzelli, and it must be said, they are a remarkable duo. Their on-screen characters are very likeably played, if a little saccharine sweet while they fall in love in the first twenty minutes. However, while some of the early musical interludes might jar a little, they don't feel entirely out of place with the scenario. Their relationship forms the beating heart of this movie though, and they play off each other beautifully, gradually winning the audience round, and permitting forgiveness for the conceit of their characters' names!
Bringing a rather sudden end to the romantic beginnings, new baby Adam arrives on the scene, and all is not rosy in the garden from very early on. Parents beware, the quarter of an hour that gradually builds up to Adam's diagnosis is as genuinely affecting a movie sequence as I can remember from any recent movie outing (and I'm only an uncle!)
And from there it becomes about coping, about managing, and about survival. As I said, the audience is blessed with the foreknowledge that the couple do not have, so we're in a privileged position, but as Roméo and Juliette soldier on, rising to every new challenge and facing up to every fresh heartbreaking piece of news, you are still right there with them. Their support networks too, play an important role in the movie, but really this is the story of Roméo and Juliette's struggle to survive.
If cinema is about escapism, then 'Declaration of War' will certainly transport you, placing you right in the middle of this young couple's lives as they battle with something you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.
I can't recommend it highly enough for lovers of French film, or possibly even just for parents who need a reminder of how lucky they are. It's bordering on stereotypical, picture-postcard French in the opening twenty minutes as the two central characters tombent amoureuses... but kind of suits the mood and is perhaps intentional. Two excellent central performances make it very watchable, but an excellent narrative device elevates this story from a traditional weepie into entirely more interesting territory. A real contender for the Oscar next March.
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