SFIFF – Hands Up (Les main en l’air)
The idea of telling very complex and adult stories through the eyes of children has a lot of promise. Especially if the filmmakers take children seriously and don’t write them off as incapable emotionally and intellectually. This is what Romain Goupil tried to do with his latest film Hands Up, for which he also wrote the original screenplay. The film falls short of the device’s potentional.
While suffering from way too much finger wagging, the story examines a group of children who are facing the deportation of one of their best friends, Milana. Milana is living in France with her family illegally since their move from Chechnya. The films apparent motive is a serious condemnation of Sarkozy’s administration, particularly immigration issues. To achieve that goal, the story gets awfully heavy handed, from the melancholy narration from Milana fifty or so years in the future, to suicide a neighbor woman committed while being chased by immigration enforcement.
Eventually, in protest, the group of friends stage a remarkably well planned protest where they just disappear for several days until Milana’s family is legalized. The outcome is as idealized as one would expect and it seems it was never meant for the audience to be guessing until the films final few scenes. But even this shallow victory is not allowed to be celebrated as Goupil has more to add in the vein of winning the battle but not the war.
All of this politicking could be put up with if the script was particularly well written, or it was extremely entertaining (I will say that this cast of child actors is particularly talented). But mostly it was just uninteresting.