Standing Tall (2015): Bercot’s Juvenile Delinquency Tale, Starring Catherine Deneuve as Sympathetic Judge in French Juvenile Delinquence Drama

Though well-acted and thematically engaging, artistically speaking, Standing Tall was one of the weakest features at the 2015 Cannes Film Fest, where it had served as opening night.

As writer and director Emmanuelle Bercot (also a gifted actress) has crafted an ultra-sympathetic drama about a teenage delinquent and the tireless efforts of the juvenile judge (Catherine Deneuve,) and counselor (Benoit Magimel), who are assigned to his case, to save him–largely from his own demons.

Blessed with charismatic looks and physical energy that command attention, Paradot plays Malony, a teenager (around 16) who lives in an adult world, populated by both callous and supportive figures.

The most positive characters in his reality are the warm-hearted court judge Florence Blaque (Catherine Deneuve) and a devoted social worker Yann (Benoît Magimel, who stand in sharp contrast to the other official authority figures.

A victim of social circumstances and poor parenting–his mother (Sara Forestier)– is mentally unstable.  As a result, he has grown to become a bully, a brute, and a sexually violent offender.

Nonjudgmental and refusing to take sides, or to explain and absolve its central character, the movie relies on Paradot, a powerful and charismatic novice actor, to render him as a convincingly troubled and tempestuous youngster, who, despite problems, is not beyond reform or redemption.

Bercot has said that her goal was to show the commitment, abnegation and patience of people working in the field of juvenile delinquency, and at times, the film feels a bit too positive and optimistic in depicting the French correctional system and how it deals with juvenile delinquency.

About Emmanuelle Bercot

Emmanuelle Bercot is one of the few French film talents able to shift between acting, directing and writing.  Much of her work has debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, from her 1997 Jury Prize-winning short Les vacances, to her first feature length film Clément (2001), the award-winning dramas Polisse, which she co-wrote and stars in, as well as Mon Roi, earning her the 2015 Cannes Best Actress award

Bercot’last feature, On My Way, starred Catherine Deneuve in her first performance in a film directed by Ms. Bercot, and debuted at the 2013 Berlin International Film Fest.

It may or may not be significant to note that Standing Tall marks the first time that a film directed by a woman was chosen to open the Cannes Film Fest.

End Note:

Standing Tall won two César Awards for Best Newcomer (Rod Paradot) and Best Supporting Actor (Benoit Magimel).

The film will be released by the Cohen Media Group in New York on Friday, April 1, at Lincoln Plaza Cinema with a national roll out to follow.