A jaunty urban fairy tale told with flair from its young protagonist’s p.o.v., “I, Cesar” marks a solid sophomore directing outing by vet actor Richard Berry, after “The (Delicate) Art of Seduction.” Appealing cast, thoughtful lensing and kid-o-centric narrative make this a perfect candidate for tyke fests and tube purveyors of family fare.
In a plentiful, cleverly written voice-over, Cesar (Jules Sitruk) introduces himself and gives a running account of his experiences. He’s 10 ½ years old, 4 feet 7 inches tall, a little chubby, and loves candy and pastries. His dad (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey) — whose semi-shady biz partner has just died — is between import-export jobs; his mom (Maria de Medeiros) is pregnant.
Cesar’s best friend, the self-assured and athletic Morgan (Mabo Kouyate), lives with his mom and has never met his father, a British journalist who left before he was born. Both lads have eyes for Sarah (Josephine Berry, helmer’s daughter), who recently transferred to their Montmartre grammar school. Sarah’s parents — her English mom (Katrine Boorman) and frighteningly gung-ho dad (Stephane Guillon) — are divorced.
Reading the signals incorrectly, Cesar concludes that his dad’s “business trip” is actually camouflage for a stint in prison. When classmates and teachers get wind of the supposed incarceration, Cesar accumulates all sorts of street cred in the schoolyard.
Morgan decides to go to London in search of his dad, and he’s joined by Cesar and Sarah. Kids are resourceful in securing cash and tix for the cross-channel rail trip. As only Sarah speaks English, their impromptu mission gets a boost from Gloria (New Wave vet Anna Karina), a French-speaking, punk-style coffee shop owner.
Peppy tale, shot from Cesar’s vantage, shows a real knack for interpreting the world as kids do. Performances by the moppets are excellent, and all tech aspects pro.