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Flicks - Declaration of War
Declaration of War 12/03/22 2:52
Flicks - Declaration of War
The discovery that their baby has a brain tumor causes a young couple to mobilize all their time and energy, in this affecting French drama. Declaration of War is a movie with a title that only gradually makes sense. In the first few minutes we meet a young Paris couple who get together at a party, discovering to their mutual amusement that their names are Romeo and Juliette. They settle in, have a baby son named Adam, and everything is blissful. But after a year and a half, some warning signs from their son can no longer be ignored, and testing reveals that he has a brain tumor. Suddenly everything has to change, and the couple's life becomes intensely and exclusively focused on the one goal of helping Adam survive.
And this is how the meaning of the film's title becomes clear. For the parents, a threat to their baby is like a declaration of war in which they must mobilize every bit of their energy, commitment, patience, and courage for the long haul, not letting anything—job, family, social life—get in the way, as they relentlessly, and one could even say ruthlessly, work every day to save their child.
The young parents are played by Valerie Donzelli and Jeremie Elkaim, and it so happens that they also co-wrote the film, while Donzelli directed it. Finding out after I watched the movie that they are a real life couple, and that the story is based on their own experience, only confirms the picture's unmistakable feeling of authenticity. The purpose of this film is very precise—it's not a documentary style movie about a child's illness. It's all about the emotional life that is part of living in crisis. The process we see the parents go through is presented in such detail in order to convey all the fear, hope, exhaustion, grim determination, and even the occasional need for escape that arises, and when the careful accumulation of detail isn't needed for the purposes of this inner portrait, the film can jump over weeks and even years with only a brief narrative bridge.
The psychology of these particular people, and their relationships to family members and so forth, is not really very important, just as in the characters' lives the personal drama has be set aside for the sake of the mission. This brings the audience to a heightened sense of awareness in which we are meant to see what is really important and what isn't, and by which we are able even to forgive the obvious faults and shortcomings of the characters. One sequence even features a musical duet by the couple, who are in separate cities, reminiscent of the romantic style in films by Jacques Demy or Louis Garrel.
What we are given in Declaration of War, then, is something refreshingly different from the melodrama that inevitably results in stories of illness. We are brought down, as it were, into the middle of the everyday challenge of it, where all the feelings of the moment, where we actually live, take place. With its sense of quiet purpose and respect for our common frailty, the picture purges self-pity from the mind, waking us from a dream of self-regard into a reality of love.