Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot
A fiery and convincing performance by the young Rod Paradot wasn’t enough to illuminate “Standing Tall”.
The film addresses the juvenile delinquency with hope and intensity, but the director, Emmanuelle Bercot (“On My Way”), who co-wrote with Marcia Romano, would need a more in-depth script to add something valuable to what Truffaut’s “400 Blows” and Dolan’s “Mommy” presented in regard to the same topic.
Paradot is Malony Ferrandot, a troubled, fatherless kid who was abandoned at the age of six by his immature, irresponsible, and drug addict mother, Severine, thoroughly played by Sara Forestier.
Under the care of the national protection of minors, Malony grows up infringing the laws without getting rid of his bad temper or control his turbulent emotions. He’s an assiduous presence in the Dunkerque’s juvenile court where the children’s magistrate, Florence Blaque (a discreet role for Catherine Deneuve), and a counselor, Yann Le Vigan (Benoît Magimel), who, due to a similar past, understands the kid better than anyone, join forces to give him the opportunities to change.
Despite recovered, Yann still has moments of weakness and frustration. He suffers and vacillates by observing Malony wasting his life.
The teenager’s uncontrollable rage makes him fall over and over again into the same mistakes, and the reconnection with his mother, who ends up losing her youngest son to a juvenile accommodation center due to negligence, only makes things worse. In one of the most memorable scenes of the film, Malony steals a car and drives like crazy with his childish mother and little brother laughing in the backseat.
At the age of 17, he agrees to attend an educational program in a remote special facility. There, the atmosphere can be hostile among the delinquents, but he discovers Tess (Diane Rouxel), his teacher’s daughter who, nurturing a sincere fondness for him, becomes decisive in a miraculous transformation.
Regardless the convenient positivism, the social nature of the drama alternates between the acceptable and the mediocre.
Mrs. Bercot’s muscled scenes are quite effective, however, their developments are scarcely satisfying, showcasing trifling situations drawn from a script that’s not totally devoid of clichés.
Disappointingly, “Standing Tall” can only be cautiously recommended, having the credible performances as its most consistent element.