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Film review: The School of Life

Film & TV

The rugged forests and imposing chateaus surrounding France’s north-central region of Sologne are at the heart of Nicolas Vanier’s visually ambitious comedy-drama The School of Life, showing at the Alliance Française French Film Festival.

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The year is 1927 and Paris is grappling with an over-abundance of war orphans.

Trapped in what he describes as a “prison”, troubled orphan Paul (Jean Scandel) manages to escape the confines of Paris when he is taken in by the Count of Fresnaye’s maid, Célestine (Valérie Karsenti), who lives next to Fresnaye’s countryside manor.

Alone to explore the great expanse of the forest that surrounds his new home, Paul becomes attached to local poacher Totoche (François Cluzet), who shows him the ropes of surviving and appreciating nature.

While The School of Life attracts some big names in French cinema, its true stars are the animals – deer, salmon, hunting dogs, rabbits and wild boars – which are beautifully spotlighted by the cameras that follow their every move. Vanier’s attention to detail and no doubt patience when it came to capturing the animals gives the film an Attenborough-esque quality that is offset by the untouched beauty of the forest and rivers that dominate the Sologne countryside.

Away from the rugged nature shots, audiences are treated to glimpses of the Loire Valley’s Chateau de Chambord and the Count of Fresnaye’s smaller, yet equally as picturesque chateau in Sologne. Vanier dedicates his attention to the opulence of the Sologne countryside, giving the film a visual quality that complements its simple yet charming storyline of an orphan boy who escapes misery to find love, acceptance and value.

Quips of humour and overarching themes of caring for both nature and family makes The School of Life a memorable feel-good movie that leaves a warm and fuzzy feeling in your heart.

The School of Life is showing at Palace Nova Prospect and Palace Nova Eastend as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival, with screenings on various dates (including Sunday) until April 15.  

Click here to read InDaily’s review of French Film Festival movie See You Up There and here to read InDaily’s review of C’est la Vie.

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