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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Declaration of War
Directed by Valerie Donzelli
MPI Home Video 02/12 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Juliette (Valerie Donzelli) catches the eye of handsome man across a crowded dance floor who then introduces himself as Romeo (Jeremie Elkaim). She says, "You've got to be kidding." Their romance unfolds in the bright city of Paris as they frolic and kiss passionately. They are free-spirits who care little about the traditional ideas of work, marriage, and adult responsibility. Despite their love of play and doing nothing, in the back of their minds is the fear of coming into "a terrible destiny."
But even this dark cloud is pushed into the background when Adam is born. He cries a lot as a baby and when he is ready for pre-school, he throws up quite a bit. A relaxed pediatrician gives them advice that seems to do the trick until they notice a swelling on one side of his face. More tests reveal that Adam has a brain tumor and must be operated upon immediately. A loyal and lovable group of family members and friends offer their support during the hard times that Romeo and Juliette face.
This engaging and creative film is written and directed by Valerie Donzelli based on the real life illness of her son. There are few tragedies more harrowing and debilitating than the serious or terminal illness of a child. The parents here are forced to deal with loss from the tests to the diagnosis through an operation. They begin an arduous journey of months spent at the hospital where they are forced to deal with a continually changing array of doctors and nurses. They do find a gifted neurosurgeon to remove the tumor but afterwards there are other complications. As the narrators point out, all this stress and lack of sleep takes a toll on Romeo and Juliette as they try desperately to cling to each other and weather the storm.
Colin Parkes and Robert Weiss wrote in their book Recovery from Bereavement: "The pain of grief is just as much a part of life as the joy of love: it is perhaps, the price we pay for love." The changes in their lives brought by Adam's crises offer Romeo and Juliette a very difficult and even strained course in adult responsibility, patience, and co-operation. Valerie Donzelli and Jeremie Elkaim give stellar and nuanced performances as the young couple who courageously do the best they can under fire. The top-drawer soundtrack is very special with selections by Offenbach, Vivaldi, Ennio Morricon, Laurie Anderson and others and depth to the emotions on display in this extraordinary French film.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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