Jan 20, 2009


This isn't a flawless film. Some of the acting is weak, and the script can be awkward since it attempts to portray French-speaking people to an English-language audience.

That said, it's beautiful to watch - and not just because of the fabulous glimpses of Paris. Reds and yellows frequently dominate the color palette, and there's a scene involving rain at an outdoor circus that's utterly gorgeous.

Frances McDormand is a treat as the teacher-nun at the girls-only boarding school. Cut from similar cloth as Mary Poppins, she's firm, kind, and engaged - the sort of teacher with which every child should be blessed.

She has clarity about the difference between children and adults - which means she knows adults have leadership obligations that must not be shirked. In one memorable scene she announces:

"All of this is no reason for us to stop acting like proper young ladies. We will not fall to pieces. We will maintain composure."
Madeline, the clever and feisty orphan around whom the film revolves, is a likeable imp. And while the rascal neighbor boy isn't featured in many of the press shots, he's exceptionally fine-looking on screen.

The film includes one of the most tender, well-acted hospital-bed scenes ever (involving the school's benefactress). This is a sweet gem of a film - especially if you're in the mood for somewhat girly family fare.