Petits Frères

"Good"

Petits Frères Review


What happens when you add unchecked boredom to economically struggling adolescents? Some band together with affectionate wisecracks against peers, in an effort to prove one's ego. Others shy away from being social, reading books or entertaining themselves to forget about their depressing reality. Still others keep pushing boundaries such as sex or drugs, in their effort to find some comfort in a cruel world.

Jacques Doillon's latest film, Petits Frères, takes us through the daily adventures of a cross section of poor teenagers on the fringes of Parisian society. Shot with the touch of a documentarian eye, it is a fond portrait of kids who are forced to grow up too fast.

Talia (Stéphanie Touly) runs away from home, with her dog Kim in tow, after fighting with her stepfather about his abuse of her family. She is befriended by a tightly knit quartet of buddies, Iliès (Iliès Sefraoui), Mous (Mustapha Goumane), Nassim (Nassim Izem), and Rachid (Rachid Mansouri). While she is crashing with Mous and his brother, Dembo (Dembo Goumane), the four steal her dog and sell it to dogfight patrons.

But these four teens aren't completely heartless to the pain of Talia's loss. Iliès takes a liking to her and pretends to help search for her beloved Kim in an effort to win her affections. He buys her a ring, and is even chivalrous enough to help her fight her stepfather as she tries to protect her little sister.

As Talia and Iliès get closer, it is easy to understand how surface hardness is a reality for street kids, but underneath there is a necessary loyalty that nobody in the neighborhood survives without. This connectedness is rarely expressed verbally but it is assumed and respected nonetheless. And just because these kids sometimes perform illegal acts to get by, like selling drugs, doesn't mean they are without morals. In fact, each of the five main characters gets the opportunity to be three-dimensional in his or her actions.

The universality of these children's situations shines through even more because it feels as if the camera is just following them around. After all, with the exception of Talia, the rest of the main characters' first names match their names in real life. This is also, unfortunately, what slows the film down as attention lags when Talia is seen simply playing with Mous's little sisters or discussing the repetitive and stereotypical police brutality with Dembo.

The other distracting feature of the film is its soundtrack, which is mainly composed of a singer heaping words of pity on the lonely youth. It's a complete antithesis of the respect garnered by watching them adapt and take care of themselves and each other. It's also repetitive and overly dramatic compared with the intelligent dialogue between the characters.

The characters themselves are both realistic and interesting to watch, making them easy to relate to and less worthy of harsh judgment. Affection for them slowly grows over the course of the film as they help each other out and begin to act like adults. Respectfully, their growing connections with one another are expressed with small favors instead of cheesy confessions of love.

Petits Frères is an intriguing character study into lives rarely captured on film with such pleasant simplicity. What happens to them isn't as interesting as how they develop through the 90 minutes of screen time, but thankfully these kids have a strong enough presence to make the plot hardly matter.

Aka Little Fellas.

Sorry this picture is so crummy, they're poor kids.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: Stéphanie Touly as Talia, Iliès Sefraoui as Iliès, as Mouss, as Nassim, as Rachid

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