24 September 2016 | paul-allaer
Well-intended WWII drama takes a long time to engage
"En mai, fais ce qu'il te plait" (2015 release from France; 114 min.; US title: "Come What May") brings the story of a group of villagers in northern France. As the movie opens, we are reminded, while watching archive footage, that 8 million people were displaced in May, 1940, one of the largest displacements in history. We then go to "One Year Earlier in Germany", where we get to know a man and his young son. It's not long before they are fleeing the country, only to turn up in France, pretending to be Belgians. The man gets arrested by the French when they find out his real nationality, leaving the son in the care of a school teacher. As we get to May, 1940, the village mayor tells everyone to evacuate, from Pas-de-Calais to Dieppe, some 100 miles to the southwest. At this point we're 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for your yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from French director Christian Carion, best known for his Oscar-nominated WWI drama "Merry Christmas". Here he takes at a particular chapter in WWII, when millions of people from northern France tried to flee the invading Germans. Let me state upfront that I have no doubt it was a human tragedy. It's only that the movie doesn't come across that way until late into it. Indeed, much of the movie feels like a Sunday afternoon stroll in the countryside, with some wine and some dancing for good measure. It's not until the convoy gets attacked by German planes that it really feels like war is hell, and we feel some emotional connection to the characters. Indeed the last half hour of the movie is by far the best part of the movie. I wish that this level could've been achieved much earlier in the movie. There are some notable performances, including Alice Isaaz as the school teacher Suzanne, but real kudos to your young boy who plays 8 yr. old Max, and has speaking parts in both German and French (and impeccable in both languages). Last but certainly not least, there is a beautiful orchestral score by none other than the legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone.
"Come What May" opened out of the blue at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati this weekend, and I was eager to check it out. The Saturday matinée screening where I saw this at was attended okay but not great. If you have any interest in WWII movies, you may want to check it out, be it at the theater, or eventually on VOD or DVD/Bly-ray.