Despite the hardships endured by the characters, nearly every shot seems dappled with nostalgia. The music score is sentimental, with shimmering pianos and trembling strings. But the writing and its attendant characterizations have an undeniable integrity, the particular historical detail offered by the story is not common in films about this era, and the lead performers are moving.
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Even when the chips are down, every boy’s adorable beret looks box-fresh. It’s the boys themselves, however, who often cut through the Camembert to deliver a shot of honest, imperilled feeling.
For those ready to view it on its own terms, its gentle focus on family and persistence should go down easy.
The great value of Christian Duguay’s A Bag of Marbles is the degree to which it makes such a barbaric and bewildering chapter in human history comprehensible for young audiences.
Director Christian Duguay is much more comfortable handling the sledgehammer superficialities of near-miss action and prankish boyhood than the complicated, turbulent emotions surrounding children imperiled during wartime.
There’s a chintzy silver lining tacked onto every potentially dark cloud in the cloying French World War II drama A Bag of Marbles, a pseudo-inspiring adaptation of Jewish World War II survivor Joseph Joffo’s partly fictionalized memoir.
This isn’t the first film to try to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust from a child’s perspective, but it’s tricky material, and this one succeeds because it is direct and forthright.