Flick Of The Week: Declaration of War

This poignant French import is a love story—about Romeo (co-writer/star Jérémie Elkaïm) and Juliette (director/co-writer/star Valérie Donzelli)—as well as a love story about this couple fighting to cure their ill son Adam. Declaration of War opens with the whirlwind romance between the young couple. After their son Adam is born, however, the trouble begins. At first he won’t stop crying. Then he vomits. Eventually, after various doctors and tests, they receive the devastating news that Adam has a brain tumor. He undergoes surgeries. The film briskly addresses all the issues involved for parents and families—from the stress of hospital bureaucracy, to the financial and emotional strains, and the hope of each step being the last. One of the film’s most touching scenes has Romeo and Juliette discussing their worst fears, and cataloging a list of things that make them feel better. The actors/writers/co-stars are a real life couple who based the film on their own experiences. (Their son plays Adam, age 8 in the film). This only makes their bond—and the film—seem stronger as they lean on each other for support, and cope with each stage in Adam’s treatment. Yet despite the maudlin subject matter, Declaration of War is oddly playful. Several amusing moments—such as a beautiful duet between the lovers, or various party scenes—help release the developing tension. What could have been a soapy, self-indulgent tearjerker is in fact, a moving and rather inspirational, life-affirming drama.

Big Miracle Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski co-star with a dolphin in this family film.

Chronicle A trio of teens develop superpowers, which they use for good and evil.

The Innkeepers Ti West, master of the slow-burn horror film—see his House of the Devil which is a masterpiece—tries his talented hand at the haunted hotel genre with decidedly mixed results. Luke (Pat Healy) and Claire (Sara Paxton) run the desk at the closing Yankee Pedlar Hotel. They spend their copious free time searching for and recording paranormal activity and the ghost of Madeline O’Malley, who is said to be roaming the hallways. The Innkeepers introduces various jolts as Claire is startled by everything from ringing phones to animals trapped in the basement to piano keys being played by an invisible hand. She uses her inhaler to recover from these shocks. Savvy horror fans will know that these cheap scares are just build-up for the real suspense to come. When West does unleash some goose-bump inducing moments in the last real they are very effective. But The Innkeepers takes too long—and too many detours—getting to the good stuff. A subplot about an irritating guest is a needless red herring. More interesting is the arrival of Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis), a former actress turned healer who communicates with spirits and warns Claire not to go into the basement. Of course, Claire goes, and makes some horrifying discoveries. West maintains a tight grasp on the proceedings, making the bare hallways suitably menacing, and he coaxes a fantastic performance out of McGillis. Even the musical score is pitched for maximum tension. But despite all the care West takes into crafting an elegant shocker, The Innkeepers ultimately feels like a case of style over substance.

The Woman in Black A horror film, starring Daniel Radcliff, about the title character and a haunted house.

 

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Gary Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based film critic who thinks Sandra Bullock mambos. He likes eating ethnic food and watching ethnic movies—though not necessarily both at the same time or from the same country.

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