Screenwriters: Luc Jacquet, Eric Rognard
Starring: Bertille Noël-Bruneau, with narration by Kate Winslet
Running time: 95 mins
> Click here for our interview with director Luc Jacquet
Obsession. Murder. Betrayal. Procreation. Stalking. You don't see those crop up in your average 'U'-rated family film, but they're all present and prominent in Luc Jacquet's The Fox And The Child.
Following his acclaimed opus March Of The Penguins, Jacquet's latest offering probes a lonely girl's fascination with a timid vixen and attempts to break down the trust barriers to stroke the wild animal. Set around the remote Ain Mountains, the environment is packed full of man-made and natural threats to both fox and child, with one particular chase sequence involving a snow leopard providing nailbiting visceral thrills up there with the most skilfully-helmed blockbuster.
As the only human representative of the film, Bertille Noël-Bruneau does an impressive job in guiding us through the myriad of emotions and increasing selfishness in her character. We share her awe when the fox introduces her into a hidden world packed full of wonders, like rock pools inhabited by scores of leaping frogs and a stalactite-laden cave.
Yet the truly outstanding acting undoubtedly comes from the fox, giving an amazingly naturalistic performance despite being surrounded by cameras. A range of facial expressions are well captured and deployed by Jacquet to conjure up meaning, such as her desperation to protect her cubs from predators. We're encouraged to delve further into the fox's psyche and predicament through the use of a number of subjective point-of-view shots too. It's a shame that it probably won't be eligible for an Oscar, especially as any acceptance speech would be far more coherent than the usual gushing.
An underlying tragic element is present throughout, with a central message highlighting that mankind and foxes aren't meant to trust one another for a good reason. The manner in which the two leads transcend this, even responding to each other's calls, is very touching but dramatically poignant. For early on in the film we witness the fox's mate die from poisoning after trusting food left for him by humans. This eventually reaches boiling point during a rather shocking scene towards the end that will live on for a long time in the minds of the viewers.
Rightfully though, this isn't a rose-tinted propaganda campaign for the species, as we do witness them stalk other animals lower down in the food chain. Yet they kill to eat, not for the simple, despicable pleasure of bloodlust.
This magnificent exploration of the unlikely friendship between a fox and a little girl has the power to educate, intrigue and provoke smiles and tears. Don't let the prospect of a Bambi or ET-style bawlfest put you off, for the movie is packed full of uplifting and inspiring moments that go hand in hand with the harsh extremities of the natural world.
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