Declaration of War
A new twist on the docudrama genre, “Declaration of War” is an affecting autobiographical story about a young French couple faced with caring for their 18-month son Adam after he’s diagnosed with a brain tumor. Director/co-writer/actress Valerie Donzelli plays out her real-life personage as her pseudonymous character Juliette, a young Parisian hipster. Juliette meets her mate-to-be, with the likely name of Romeo, at a house party. Like Donzelli, co-writer Jeremie Elkaim plays his real-life role as Adam’s father and committed partner to Donzelli’s character. An opening scene divulges Adam’s survival from the potentially life threatening disease so as not to hold the audience hostage with unnecessary suspense. This benevolent narrative movement allows the story to breathe with the kind of naturalism the filmmakers intend. Although the movie periodically stumbles during a few off-putting moments of commentary from indistinct narrators, the heartfelt chronicle percolates with a heightened sense of authenticity. Donzelli liberates the film’s potentially cloistering hospital atmosphere in which non-actors fulfill their roles. She does so with stylized elegiac sequences that communicate the couple’s romantic connection and practical methods for working through the terrible pressures that transform their daily lives. The filmmaker’s fluid camera work and brilliant use of music, adds a level of excitement to the drama without overpowering the film as you might experience in a typical Hollywood disease movie. There are no cheap flashes of sentimentality on display. The couple’s “declaration of war” against their son’s cancer comes with heavy personal costs that are transcended during the film’s joyful closing scene.
Not Rated. 100 mins. (B) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)
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