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Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Gerard Jugnot, François Berleand, Kad Merad, Jean-Paul Bonnaire
Director: Christophe Barratier

The film opens with a scene focusing on a composer, Pierre Morhange (Jean Baptiste-Maunier), passionately leading an orchestra. Following him after the concert he is peacefully resting in his room when he hears a knock on his door. Outside the door is an old classmate of his, Pepinot (Maxence Perrin) who has brought him an old diary that their very first music teacher Clement Mathieu (Gerard Jugnot) kept and wanted him to have.

As he opens the pages the scene unfolds in 1949 at the entrance of a boarding school for boys with personality problems. There at the gates stands Clement Mathieu, the new supervisor for the boys. Mathieu meets Rachin (François Berleand) the authoritarian principal and soon discovers that he uses a very aggressive system to keep the boys in order.

Mathieu is a qualified musician and naturally passionate about music, so when he gets to know his pupils more he decides to form a chorus. As he trains them he becomes more and more involved with them, particularly with his star singer Pierre Morhange, who is none other than the composer from the film’s opening scene. Mathieu becomes a father figure to the boys as he stands up for them against Rachin and shows them that they are worth much more than they have been led to believe. He restores their hope and confidence by offering them a sense of purpose through their chorus.

Director Christophe Barratier has crafted a classic film. The characters are all richly developed, explored thoroughly and allowed to add to the story in their own individual ways. The soundtrack and visuals beautifully bring the story to life, from the inner dwellings of the boys’ dormitories to the little French village that is close to the school. It all perfectly captures the essence of that time and age.

The performances from both the adult and child actors are all excellent but it is Gerard Jugnot as the quietly inspiring and principled man that gives this film its heart and drive. He draws you into his character, taking you along on his journey that he has with these children in that period of his life. The film captures the beauty of music, the innocence of childhood and the importance of following and fulfilling your passions.

A splendid film that should satisfy even the most cynical of filmgoers.

5 out of 6 stars