I went to see this film yesterday and it’s taken me this long to try figure out my feelings on the film. I’ve debated with myself for hours if it’s a two or a one out of five and in the grand scheme of things I have to forfeit that extra mark. The story is confusing, the score and some of the visuals are sensory offending, and the mumbled dialogue that switches between French and English is so hard to hear at some points that you start to drift into the overwhelming depths of your own thoughts.
The film stars someone whom I could watch read the menu of the local takeaway, fellow Dub Liam Cunningham, who you may know from Game of Thrones, The Mummy 3, but mostly Game of Thrones. He stars as an American diplomat who is helping President Wilson negotiate the end of World War One. His German wife and 10-year-old son have moved to a house in France while the negotiations are taking place. But the film is more about the relationship between the three strong family rather than the War. The young boy is intent on creating havoc inside the family and outside, pushing Mother and Father. The Mother is deeply religious and unhappy at her life. The Son has more affection for the staff around the family than for his parents.
That is it. The film doesn’t know if it wants to be a family drama, a testament of the time at the end of what was called The Great War, or an art house style take on either. I will give credit that the performances of the three main cast, Father, Mother, and Child, are at least strong, and the production value of the film is high. Capturing that era in French history takes a lot of work to get the set and costuming right. But that’s about all I can say was good with the film.
The dialogue is at times so hard to hear that you are straining your ears trying to make out the plot points that they are letting you in on, and then the soundtrack, what can I say about that? Well, if this was a 1970’s thriller or horror, we’d probably have one of the best scores out there, but it’s not. It’s a period drama about a family. But the overpowering score, which sounds very much like the score to the original Taking of Pelham 123, is out-of-place. When you just about can make out the dialogue this music comes on and just flows over the people speaking. I started to think that the film makers decided that the score is better than the script so lets just highlight that.
I’m all for different ways to tell a story, flashbacks and flash forwards, dream sequences that mingle into reality, even having a giant hippo tap dancing through a scene, go wild as that is what film is for. But there are not enough breadcrumbs in the world to find your way home from where this film tries to bring you. It’s as though they don’t want you to know where you are going in the worst possible way.
The Childhood of a Leader had the recipe for something special, to be one of the better period dramas this year, but the breakneck speed in which the film changes its own mind about which kind of film that it wants to be left me confused and uncaring about the film in general. I don’t know if I can honestly sit here at five thirty in the morning and tell you all that this is worth spending your cinema cash on. During the summer months a low-budget drama can be just the palate cleaner that you need after the big bangs and bucks of the blockbusters. For that you have to look elsewhere, maybe Viva or Captain Fantastic, when it comes to this film I doubt many of you will come out raving about it.