• James Rutherford

'Au Revoir Les Enfants': A Deeply Moving French Drama Set at an Elite Boarding School during WWII


Movie poster for the French film Au Revoir Les Enfants from filmmaker Louis Malle

"Au Revoir Les Enfants" ("Goodbye, Children") (1987) is a profoundly moving historical drama set in 1943 at a Carmelite boarding school for boys in northern France, at a time when the country was immersed in World War II and occupied by Nazi forces.

The storyline follows the young residents of le Petit-College d'Avon, a residential academy, where young Julien (Gaspard Manesse) masks inner turmoil with outward displays of aggressiveness. With the arrival of three new students, including the apprehensive Jean (Raphael Fejtö), Julian is initially put off by the curious ingressors. As the truth of their presence is ultimately revealed—that they are French Jews hidden from the Nazis by the benevolent Headmaster Père Jean (Philippe Morier-Genoud)—Julian and Jean begin to form a unique camaraderie.

Written and directed by the late French filmmaker Louis Malle ("Lacombe, Lucien", "Vanya on 42nd Street"), and based on his own autobiographical novel, 'Au Revoir Les Enfants' is a deeply resonant depiction of innocence loss and tragedy. Malle delivers his childhood experiences to screen with superb craftsmanship, conveying his lifelong anguish with heartrending spirit and remarkable sense of humane compassion.

 

View the trailer: