"Declaration of War" is stylish contemporary French melodrama, complete with a gorgeous, hip, young couple, a chubby-cheeked baby and a tuneful score that's occasionally woven directly into the story, the way the Irish romance "Once" did.
It's about the strain a child's medical problems can put on a relationship, and how a couple can come together to do what's best for their baby.
The movie might lay it on a little thick here and there — the couple's names are Romeo and Juliet, for example — but stars Valérie Donzelli and Jérémie Elkaïm are so good-looking, and decent actors to boot, that you won't much mind the gimmicks. The two wrote the script together, and Donzelli directs as well.
Romeo and Juliet, both actors, meet at a party and are instantly attracted to each other. So they get married and make a baby.
At first the infant is a strain on the relationship. Baby Adam (César Desseix) cries nonstop in the early weeks. But a doctor helps put things right with a little instruction on the feeding schedule. All smiles again.
It doesn't last. Something's wrong with the baby. Tests soon reveal it's a brain tumor.
The young parents are beside themselves with grief and anxiety.
Soon they're dealing with the complex bureaucracy of hospitals, doctors, treatment protocols and career interruption. But they have each other. They vow to do whatever it takes to help their baby.
Strain flares up between them, and they learn to deal with that.
Diagnoses evolve. Eventually they realize this isn't going to be a quick crisis, resolved and put behind them. It's a marathon that will go on for years.
So we get a montage of the two jogging together. And a montage of parties to celebrate milestones along the way. Or of a visit to an amusement park to let off steam and laugh a little. Lots of montages.
But there are also surprisingly intimate moments between Romeo and Juliet when they're alone together or by themselves, moments that define their characters and the kind of marriage they have. Moments that emotionally bind you to the characters.
I won't tell the outcome of the movie. I really shouldn't. But I will say that I felt cheated by text printed on the screen that condenses the final half of their journey — with no montage.
Still I liked how effectively this movie kept me aboard the emotional roller coaster Romeo and Juliet ride.
"Declaration of War" is in French, with English subtitles.
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