A shy teacher comes to a school for wayward boys and decides to organize a choir.
This plot could be a cheesy after-school special or Sister Act 3. Or, it could be this lovely, tender, unpretentious French film, a small delight.
A distinguished orchestra conductor returns to his home for his mother’s funeral. A visitor arrives with a book under his arm. They have not seen each other for more than half a century. But once they were students together at a school for boys with behavior problems. The visitor has brought the diary of their teacher, Clement Mathieu (Gerard Jugnot). As they open the book, we are taken back to the teacher’s arrival at the school.
Rachin (François Berléand), the principal, is a petty tyrant who believes the only way to run the school is by controling the boys with brutal punishment. He has no hesitation in punishing the innocent if he cannot identify the guilty.
The shy Mathieu, who feels like a failure, shows a talent for getting the boys to trust and listen to him. Though past failures made him vow to give up music, the boys’ discovery of his sheet music leads him to invite them to sing for him. Several have enthusiasm, and one, Morhange (Jacques Perrin) has talent.
There is a gentle authenticity in the portrayal of the Mathieu and the boys, the music is glorious, and the ending is perfection.
Parents should know that the movie has some very crude schoolboy language and some violence. Children are punished by being beaten and a prank results in a serious injury.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Rachin and Mathieu have such different ideas about how to handle the boys. Why couldn’t Mathieu tell Morhage’s mother how he felt about her?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy two Disney films about boys’ choirs, Perfect Harmony and Almost Angels (a fictional story set in the Vienna Boys’ Choir). They might also want to go to a concert featuring a choir like this one, or they might even like to try singing with one.