A Bag of Marbles (2017)

More than 10 years ago I bought Joseph Joffo's A Bag of Marbles. I was supposed to read it for school but I never finished it because I wasn't a big fan of reading at the time and I didn't like the book at all. I've given it another try a couple of weeks ago and, while I finished it this time, it wasn't anything special. Just an average novel about the horrible fate of Jews during World War II and therefore I didn't have high expectations for A Bag of Marbles (French: Un sac de billes). Somehow it still managed to let me down.

The film tells the story of 10-year-old Joseph (Dorian Le Clech) and 12-year-old Maurice Joffo (Batyste Fleurial), two Jewish brothers, who are forced to separate from their family in order to escape Nazi-occupied Paris. On their journey, they meet all kinds of people, good and bad, and in a way or another, they'll help them reunite with their family.

It's not a fictional story, but Joffo's memoirs and he wrote down what he could remember so I won't complain much about the fact that the story doesn't flow very smoothly and jumps from place to place, although this being a film I was expecting a better job. But I will say that director Christian Duguay and screenwriter Jonathan Allouche were able to make the story unengaging and not so interesting to me. 

However, what really bugged me about A Bag of Marbles is that it's a story about the strong bond between two brothers who can rely on each other and cannot trust anyone else; the film doesn't deliver that. Their relationship is bland, far from being the soul of the film as it was for the novel. These kids manage to survive in a world of adult, war and anti-semitism because of the strong bond between them but it just doesn't come off in the film.

Gaumont Film Company
Another aspect that doesn't quite come off is the differences between the two brothers. Joseph is naive and has a hard time understanding the reality of war, Maurice, on the other hand, is intelligent and mature. In the film, they barely emerge. Joseph is whimpering all the time because he misses his parents, while Maurice looks pissed all the time. 

There's some very enjoyable about this film though, it's Patrick Bruel's performance. He plays Roman Joffo, the father, with such passion and commitment, and delivers the love and pain of a father who must separate from his kids. His scenes are quite emotional. 

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