Agnes Merlet’s impressive first feature (inspired by a newspaper story) is a scary portrait of potentially very violent youngsters who have scarcely reached the age of puberty. Compassionate but unflinching depiction of the abandoned kids’ day-to-day existence will probably prove too downbeat to find a substantial audience, though fest exposure is indicated.
Set in winter in an unattractive coastal area, film opens with the homeless brothers, Martin (Ludovic Vandendaele) and Simon (Erick Da Silva), driving a stolen bus, which they later roll off a cliff into the sea. The pair survive by stealing food and money; they also vandalize and destroy.
There is no one to give them genuine love and affection. Though the older boy fancies a girl (Sandrine Blancke) he knew at school, he has no idea how to approach her in a non-violent way.
A recurrent theme is the boys’ fascination with fish, first in an undersea film they view, and later in a fish market where they see decapitated fish still gasping for air. The kids see themselves as young sharks, predators who will terrorize society.
Merlet has obtained frighteningly natural performances from her two young actors. With its absolute realism, the film pulls no punches and isn’t at all sentimental, which is its great strength but may also prevent its acceptance by a large audience.