French film Friday: harsh realities – our top 5 favourite films

MyFrenchLife™ – – French film Friday: harsh realities – emotional reactions in French cinema

Happy Friday! We’re bringing back 5 of our all-time favourite French film recommendations to ease you into the weekend. This Friday, our focus is on emotion, poignancy, and harsh realities in French film.

These French films connect the hardships and revelations of childhood, youth, and adulthood; loss of innocence; strength of humanity; endurance of love.

Their messages will stay with you long after the final scenes, leaving a lingering statement of morality.

Experience the gritty truth behind harsh realities In French film.

1. Harsh realities: French film – Eden

If you have an interest in the French music scene, or are nostalgic for Paris in the ‘90s, I highly recommend you check out ‘Eden’.

Based loosely on the life of DJ Sven Hansen-Løve, this French drama was directed by Sven’s younger sister Mia, and co-written by the pair.

It follows Sven’s fictional counterpart, Paul (played by the adorable Félix de Givry), over two decades of his life, as he tries to make it in the Parisian music scene and create his own Eden on earth. Read more.

2. Harsh realities: French film – Des hommes et des dieux

Xavier Beauvois’ film, ‘Of Gods and Men’ has been awarded many honours around the world. It won Best Film at The Cesar Awards, Cannes Film Festival, and a string of international awards.

The film’s subject is original. Its atypical characters and a very honest and engaging storyline are not what we have been spoon-fed in modern French cinema. It is also refreshing to see such spartan, sincere and humble cinematography.

Set in the 1990s, the story focuses on a small brotherhood of French Trappist monks, who live in Algeria’s Atlas Mountains. The Brothers live a modest life based on acts of goodwill and charity amid the troubled North African region.

When a group of Muslim extremists threaten the safety of the small community that they serve, the brothers have to decide whether to stay or return to their native France. Read more.

3. Harsh realities: French film – Monsieur Lazhar

I sat down to watch ‘Monsieur Lazhar’ having forgotten that this French-language film is a Canadian production, not a French one.

This meant that I sat through a good part of the movie wondering why on earth the actors all sounded so strange. I figured it out eventually (mostly because the word ‘Canada’ comes up a few times), but it was confusing there for a while.

Despite being distracted by the strange-sounding language, I was captivated by this French film from the very first minute to the last.

We’re introduced to our young protagonists, Alice (Sophie Nélisse) and Simon (Émilien Néron), almost immediately.

Not only are they excellent actors, they are both utterly adorable. Read more.

4. Harsh realities: French film – La Haine

A black guy, an Arab and a Jew walk onto a basketball court… sounds like the opening of a joke, doesn’t it?

But this is not a funny movie. This is a heart-wrenching look at race relations and tensions between youth and police in Parisian banlieues.

The filming is beautiful, and the acting is absolutely superb. La Haine’ made me cry furious tears for the kids who can’t catch a break, because society isn’t set up to give them one.

By far my all-time favourite French film. Read more.

5. Harsh realities: French film – Elle s’appelait Sarah

Watching this French film felt like having my lungs flattened by a ton of bricks. I couldn’t breathe or stop crying throughout most of it. (I love when movies have that effect on me.)

It’s an intense, powerful film that tells the story of a girl who locks her brother in a closet to hide him from the French police during Vél d’Hiv Roundup in 1942.

It tells the story of both French collaborators and the French farmers who hid Jews from Vichy France authorities.

It is not a happy story, but it is definitely one worth watching. Read more.

Which are your favourite most poignant moments in French film? We’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Image credits
1. Cinema, via Flickr
2. Eden, via YouTube
3. Des hommes et des dieux, via YouTube
4. Monsieur Lazhar, via YouTube
5. La Haine, via YouTube
6. Elle s’appelait Sarah, via YouTube

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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