Declaration of War

Fighting a Child's Disease


27 January 2012| No Comments on Declaration of War     by Sean Chavel


Recommended more for practical terms… but it is artistically successful. Declaration of War (French, in English subtitles) is a sad story of new parents dealing with their newborn’s disease and is filmed with energy and vitality to offset the material. Romeo (Jeremie Elkaim) and Juliette (Valerie Donzelli) are attractive young people just getting a start with their grown-up life, with the hope that their child will grow up healthy and beautiful. The child gets past its first year but looks a little dopey, a little lethargic and a little clumsy in comparison to other kids at daycare. After some trips to the pediatrician, Romeo and Juliette are told that their son must undergo x-rays, then an MRI. What’s important, if bewildering about the film, is how some of the doctors that treat the case are hopeful while others are more cynical or disparaging in their prognosis. Then there’s the viewer’s expectations: You wonder the whole time if whether this is the kind of film that will end happily or tragically? To its credit, you’re not quite sure what kind of film it’s going to be since it conducts a tone that’s a cross between acceptable mainstream and uncompromised art film.

Donzelli, the fine-looking actress at the center, is also the film’s director and she seems to have inherited the hand-held camera look of Francois Truffaut’s early movies (1000-to-1 she’s seen “Jules and Jim” at least a dozen times). Her film makes us hold our breath on several occasions, waiting alongside the parents for the news of whether their young has survived the treatment or not. Other characters introduced are the extended family, an appropriately emotional cheerleading squad, as well as a league of doctors and unsympathetic nurses.

You extract practical information from the movie more than anything. You come out figuring why it’s important to search for the best doctor, one that can perform and communicate best with you. Why it’s important to find a doctor who understands some cancerous tumors over others. Why it’s important to ask if your child survives one treatment, if he will still be healthy in six months. Why it’s important to ask how many months of hospitalization will be required if there is survival. None of the doctors tell these parents neither of what their lives will look like five years from that point on.

100 Minutes. Unrated.


Film Cousins: “Terms of Endearment” (1983); “Awakenings” (1990); “The Doctor” (1991); “Lorenzo’s Oil” (1992).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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