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In the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of France, taken to the hospital for a broken leg from an accident, twelve-year-old Maurice Gutman is narrowly spared from the mass roundup that will take his family from him and leave them imprisoned in a distant death camp. At the hospital, Dr. Daviel diagnoses him with tuberculosis and imposes a long treatment, perhaps a humane ruse to prevent him from being deported. Over the course of two years, while living with the hospital staff, Maurice and eight other young boarders unforgettably experience friendship, solidarity and extraordinary courage. These are the children of luck.
Les enfants de la chance (2016) is a French movie shown in the U.S with the translated title The Children of Chance. (Note that, for some reason, IMDb only lists this film with its French title.) The movie was written and directed by Malik Chibane.
Lucien (portrayed extremely well by Eliott Lobrot) is a young Jewish teen-age boy who is thrown down concrete steps by his former friends. The systematic deportation of Jews has begun, and anti-Semitism is everywhere. Believe it or not, this violent attack saves his life. He is being taken to the hospital while the rest of his family is rounded up by the French police.
Within a few minutes, we learn that Maurice has tuberculosis of the bone of his broken leg. Again, amazingly, this is good luck. He's sent to a hospital for children with chronic diseases, where he's relatively safe from the Germans. (However, shortly after that, "The Free Zone" was invaded by the Germans, so the German army was in direct control of the entire country.)
The rest of the film depicts Julian's life in the hospital, where he bonds with the other children on his ward. He is protected by the stern physician, Dr. Daviel (Philippe Torreton) and a kind nurse, Véronique (Pauline Cheviller).
This is a fascinating film. The cruelty of the Germans is taken for granted. At one point, a grateful German colonel asks the doctor for just one small gift. It's "a few Jews." The resilience and good morale the boys maintain is amazing. I think it's realistic, but we can't know.
For the record, the publicity states, "Family friendly! Suitable for ages 10 and up." It's not. Do you really want your 10-year-old to see a movie where a German officer hits a sick young boy and knocks him down? Do you want your child or grandchild seeing a scene where a doctor tells another sick boy that if he wants to leave the hospital, they will have to first amputate his leg? Apparently, somewhere along the line, someone decided that a film about children must be a film for children. Not a safe assumption. Luckily, I didn't see any young people in the audience.
We saw this movie at the excellent Dryden Theatre in the George Eastman House Museum. It was part of the extraordinary Rochester International Jewish Film Festival. It will work as well on the small screen, because almost all of the action takes place within the hospital.
The Children of Chance has a very low IMDb rating of 6.4. As I write this review, it only has 43 ratings, so it's possible that this rating will go up. My advice is to ignore the rating, and try to see the movie if you can find it.
My advice also is to get on the RIJFF mailing list, because some of the films will be re-shown over the next 12 months. Any movie lover in Upstate New York will enjoy this festival. Save dates in mid-July 2018 so that you can attend.
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