An older sister is unstoppable in Fanny’s Journey – a film review

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Courtesy of Mnemesha Films

The beautiful bucolic landscape of France and Italy is the place where Director Lola Dillon takes us to explore another angle of World War II. This time it is through the eyes of Jewish children fleeing at first to France and then escaping later to Italy for safe haven. The film is packed with committed performances, especially from the young actors and a brave school mistress played by Cécile De France. These performances along with stunning cinematography, however, never add to a fully accomplished film. Dillon compromises some of the takes by not fully developing scenes and showing what appears to be action sequences often cut too short. Perhaps the age of the subjects prevented her from showing all atrocities, but most of the action is spoken about rather than shown.

Fanny’s Journey is based on the true story of Fanny Ben Ami (Léonie Souchad) who, in 1943, had barely turned 13, when she was sent to an Italian foster home. Fanny and her younger sisters are originally from France and face language barriers and Nazi persecution. Under these conditions, the children are able to survive despite heavy odds against them. The younger children do not even understand what is going on, or why they have to continue to move from one place to the next. It is an almost impossible task to explain to a child why they might be persecuted because of their religious beliefs. At one point, Fanny’s younger sister Georgette (Juliane Lepoureau) asks, “Why can’t we stop being Jews?” It is a poignant moment that demonstrates the difficulty in grasping both the gravity and precarious state they are in and the reasons why they are in that state.

Courtesy of Mnemesha Films

When the group of young children become threatened yet again in Italy, it is up to them to run away. This time, they follow Madame Forman (De France). She is the first to recognize that once Mussolini falls, they will not be safe in Italy much longer, so they make off to Switzerland. However, plenty of other obstacles stand between Italy and Switzerland. At some point, Fanny is to take the lead of the group of young children. While at the helm of the eight younger children, Fanny has to dig deep into her strength and keep together the stories that they have devised to be able to continue past German Soldiers. The height of the film comes when some fellow travelers tell on the group, and they are almost caught by the Nazi soldiers.

The period piece is moving in its own right, and for many it might strike a personal chord, as current immigration policies are being re-imagined. Seeing the story come to life via children as the main vehicle of storytelling reminds us that although the Holocaust seems like a part of history, we are deemed to repeat it if we are not cautious of standing tall against threats to freedom. Although Fanny’s Journey is an important film that depicts a feat of courage by young children, it still lacks some stylistic markers of a great film. High tension moments are delivered through strong acting, but the overall tone of the film feels old-fashioned and innocuous. Despite the historical tone of the drama, some of the action sequences feel out of a young adult novel, rather than the period war movie that is its subject matter. In all, it is an important but safe film, one that perhaps is also intended for a younger audience rather than the serious historical film buff.

Ana Morgenstern

Fanny’s Journey runs 94 minutes, is in French with English subtitles and is not rated (but suitable for children). The film opens in several Palm Beach and Broward County theaters on Friday, Feb. 17 with a visit by the real life Fanny Ben-Ami herself. Here schedule and theaters are as follows:

Friday, February 17th

Saturday, February 18th

Sunday, February 19th

Monday, February 20th

For screenings nationwide, please click here. A screener link was sent by Menemsha Films for the purposes of this review.

(Copyright 2017 by Independent Ethos. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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