Language: French – English subtitles
The gist: Set in 1948, Les Choristes is the story of Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot), a composer who has all but given up on his music. He accepts a Supervisory position at Fond de l’ Etang (“Bottom of the Well”) – a boarding school for orphans and problematic boys. Despite the fact that the school is administered by the cruel Rachin (François Berléand), problems abound. In an attempt to keep the boys from trouble, Monsieur Clément begins to teach them music. Along the way he discovers the musical ability of the rebel Pierre Morhange (Jean-Baptiste Maunier), the charm of Pierre’s single mother, Violette (Marie Bunel), and the unwavering hope of young Pépinot (Maxence Perrin) – the orphan boy who waits near the gate, every Saturday, for his father’s return. Though not as he might have envisioned, Clement’s brief stint at Fond de l’ Etang will change everyone’s life forever.
My take: Les Choristes is a charming look at a few of the forgotten ones, following WWII. Directed by Christophe Barratier, the story generates laughter one minute, tears the next. Subtle themes speak of the need to feel connected, the importance of a father figure. The boys do their own singing – and their voices are angelic. While all the actors perform well, Gérard Jugnot deserves extra kudos. His portrayal of the kind-hearted Clément Mathieu creates a character both easy to believe and easy to love. More than anything, however, the film is a simple tribute to the human spirit. For that alone I would recommend this film; the talents of the writers, director, actors and film crew are but added perks.
An aside: Don’t pass over a movie simply because it is not in your native language. Sure, reading subtitles may prove a bit awkward at first, but it will come naturally before you know it. Foreign films offer a glimpse into another culture – not to mention, they open a whole new world of great films.