A few years after World War II, an unknown but motivated musician named Mr. Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot) takes a job as a supervisor at Fond De L'Etang, a boarding school for hard-to-manage boys. The school's principal, Rachin (Francois Berléand), is a firm believer in a justice system called "Action-Reaction," which involves various forms of merciless punishment.
Unfazed by the numerous warnings from Rachin and the other few teachers of Fond De L'Etang, Mr. Mathieu welcomes the children with patience and compassion; to which, the children react by calling him "Baldy" and playing practical jokes. In a fatherly and patient manner Mr. Mathieu doesn't surrender. When he catches a sliver of talent while the boys are singing a nasty song about him, he
decides that music is the smallest common denominator.
In the manner of "Sister Act 2," but closer to the cinematic caliber of "The 400 Blows" ("Les Quatre cents coups"), "Les Choristes" (IMDb listing) progresses as the rascals allow Mr. Mathieu to turn them into a choir. In the process -- and to his amazement -- Mr. Mathieu discovers a great talent, Pierre
Morhange (Jean-Baptiste Maunier). Introduced to Mr. Mathieu as the boy with the "face of an angel" and the mind of a delinquent, Morhange has an exquisite voice. He later becomes one of the world's greatest musicians. The story of the movie springs from what Morhange reads in Mr. Mathieu's diary from years ago.
The film evokes many emotions through its plot, the depth of its characters -- especially that of Mr. Mathieu -- and the captivating music. Morhange's voice has the power to move even the most cynical viewer. The director, Christophe Barratier, originally a musician, and the
composer of the film's music, shows how music fills one's soul. The music in "Les Choristes" is heartwarming; it brings the boys together, it changes their attitudes, their moods and how others see them.
Ultimately, Mr. Mathieu reminds us of the teachers -- anonymous to the world -- that
have touched and motivated many great talents. He represents all the humble but loving people without which, many of the great artists, actors or scientists wouldn't have reached their potential.
Even though "Les Choristes" displays a somewhat icky vigor of
sentimentality at times, it is one of the most humanitarian and warm
films of the last few years.
Filmfodder Grade: B+