Malony has been in conflict with the school and with the law since he was six. But Florence Blaque, a juvenile judge, and Yann, a special educator, are convinced that they can save him from the spiral of revolt and violence in which he seems to be caught for the rest of his days. Will they attain their end in spite of everything, in spite of Malony himself who is his own worst enemy?Written by
A six-year-old boy from a dysfunctional home is placed into care, develops serious emotional problems, and spends the next decade getting into trouble with the law while social welfare services fight to rehabilitate him.
La Tête Haute (Standing Tall) seems unremarkable when summarised like this, but it is actually a very compelling film - in large part due to the breakthrough performance of Rod Paradot who plays problem-child protagonist, Malony.
From his sneering disdain towards the Juvenile Court Judge portrayed by Catherine Deneuve, to the sheer physical embodiment of the mental demons that torture him, it is hard to believe that this is Paradot's first film; that he was a trainee carpenter waiting to be discovered just months before production began.
One very jarring aspect of this film is its tendency to exasperate the viewer. Quite often Malony will seem to be making progress only to sabotage it with a senseless act. It becomes repetitive but is almost certainly intended to project the child protection teams' frustrations onto the audience.
And here we find another trait that sets this apart from other recent French films concerned with the rehabilitation of troubled teenagers: It paints the Judge, the Social Worker and their colleagues in a more constructive and positive light. They are as frustrated with the system as the child, but their battle is with the confines and constraints that impede their ability to help him. They actually seem to care.
Very much recommended.
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