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SON OF THE SHARK (LE FILS DU REQUIN) (director: Agnes Merlet; screenwriter: Santiago Amigorena; cinematographer: Gérard Simon; editors: Pierre Choukroun/Guy Lecorne; music: BrunoCoulais; cast: Ludovic Vandendaele (Martin Vanderhoes ), Eric Da Silva (Simon Vanderhoes), Sandrine Blancke (Marie), Maxime Leroux (Le père), Yolande Moreau (L’automobiliste); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: François Fries/Jean-Martial Lefranc; Seventh Art Releasing; 1993-France-in French with English subtitles)
“Sheds no light on how to treat such misunderstood children with severe emotional problems.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Agnes Merlet (“Artemisia) directs and cowrites with Santiago Amigorena this grim slice-of-life psychological drama about two homeless brothers, the 14-year-old Martin (Ludovic Vandendaele) and his younger 12-year-old brother Simon (Eric Da Silva), leading destructive lives in their seaside community of Lignan as vandals and thieves.Mom abandoned them, giving Martin a book on goldfish before leaving that he clutches onto with dear life. Martin, the film’s narrator, seems loony, but tries to keep sane by telling himself constantly that he’d like to be the “son of a shark.”His fantasy is that he and Simon will disappear into the bottom of the sea, where they will live happily ever after surrounded by dancing fish.

The incorrigible brothers are liars and criminals, who the child welfare program deals with by sending Martin to a reform school and Simon to an orphanage. The brothers escape each time and after they go on a crime spree, they are returned to their respective facilities until they escape again and meet in their abusive drunken father’s (Maxime Leroux) house. The wretched dad wants nothing to do with his offspring, so the kids leave his house and live outside in wintry northern France by sleeping at an abandoned railroad yard and survive by stealing groceries and clothes.

Even though these kids were dealt a harsh blow in life, it’s not easy to sympathize with them when their behavior is so anti-social, violent and criminal (this is especially so when as a lark they rob a girl’s bike and force her to strip down to her pantys while they taunt and laugh at the cowering girl). These juvenile delinquents are too damaged to fit into society and thereby harsher punishment is in order, or else society will pay the price for not dealing with these little monsters when they had a chance to.

Merlet gets great natural performances from the kids, but she sheds no light on how to treat such misunderstood children with severe emotional problems.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”