“This is not a film about childhood, it’s a film about a different kind of childhood” Daniel Grou: Director
It’s not every day that one stumbles upon a movie such as Dix et demi. When it comes to powerful, realistic dramas that don’t spare anything to the viewer, you can count yourself lucky to discover one. They are rare, with most directors simply preferring to play it on the safe side, sacrificing honesty and objectivity in return for creating a more commercial product that is likely to appeal to a wider audience group. Of course, there are notable exceptions such as: El Niño Que Gritó Puta, The Interrogation of Michael Crowe and, to some extent, The Butcher Boy). Personally, I always prefer an independent film with real meaning over many of those that flood the cinemas nowadays.
Before I continue the review of the film, I want to note that Dix et demi is not suitable for viewers under the age of sixteen. (Note: I don’t like this type of disclaimer as many of the issues addressed in this film are universal and could be assessed by viewers of any age. Yet they are necessary for some of the more conservative readers of my reviews).
And now on to the review…
Tommy Leblanc’s life has never been easy. Abandoned by his parents, he spent many years of his young life living with foster families. His troubled past reflected on his character, and his violent behavior caused many of the foster parents to give up on him. At age ten and a half, he is arrested and sent to a rehabilitation center for juvenile delinquents. In many films that deal with troubled children, people working in these centers are portrayed as interested in anything else but the well-being of the kids entrusted to them. Tommy, however, is lucky to find himself surrounded by educators who take their job seriously and try to provide a safe environment for the children who live at the rehabilitation center.
At first, Tommy is calm and polite. He is curious about the place that is to be his new home. In his own way, Tommy likes to charm people by showing kindness and good manners.
Yet soon the educators (and the viewer) discover that first impressions are often wrong. At the slightest provocation or frustration, Tommy becomes aggressive and rude. During these episodes, he has little or no regard for the rights, safety or feelings of others. His antisocial behavior causes increasing trouble at the rehabilitation center. Some of the employees there start wondering if the boy suffers from a mental disorder and are concerned that his repeated and uncontrollable seizures may endanger other kids. The educators are unsure if they have the resources to deal with Tommy and feel ready to give up on him. Only one of them believes that Tommy’s behavior would improve if only the staff were able to discover the right way to understand the boy. As the story goes on, one begins to wonder who is more vulnerable — Tommy or the people who try to help him…
One of the reasons I chose this film to view and review was the fact that the young lead, Robert Naylor, won an award for Best Performance in a Foreign Film at the 32nd edition of the Young Artist Awards. Naylor’s talent really stands out as, thanks to his believable performance, one can sense the emotional charge of the story told in Dix et demi. This story really gets to the viewer, forcing one to face the challenge of choosing a side – if that is even possible when you consider the complexity of the characters in the film. Dix et demi was filmed in Canada in French, so those not familiar with that language will have to rely on subtitles in order to follow the dialog.
If you like movies with a message, movies that make you think while you are watching them (and after wards) – you should not miss Dix et demi. As far as I am concerned, the film has reserved a place amongst the most powerful coming of age dramas ever produced.
- The DVD includes English Subtitles