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Blame It On Fidel

At the start of Julie Gavras' adaptation of Domitilla Calamai's novel Blame It On Fidel, young Nina Kervel thinks she knows all she needs to know about her wealthy lawyer father and jet-setting journalist mother. Then one day in 1970, her dad comes home from a business trip sporting a beard, and talking about how the whole family is going to leave their ritzy French estate and relocate to a flat in the city, so they can better aid the socialist cause in Chile. Kervel's parents (Stefano Accorsi and Julie Depardieu) think they're finally growing up and taking responsibility for the world they're going to leave their kids. But Kervel feels they're betraying what their family stands for.

As the daughter of political-thriller director Costa-Gavras, Julie Gavras probably knows a few things about growing up as a rich revolutionary. So it's unfortunate that her script—co-written with three collaborators—takes the concept of "social change as seen through the eyes of a 9-year-old" too literally, with seemingly all the conversations that Kervel overhears laying out the adults' feelings about "dirty Reds" and "reactionaries" a little too plainly. Kervel is even miraculously present for her parents' key moment of political crisis, when Accorsi takes issue with what he sees as Depardieu's distracting advocacy for abortion rights.

But Gavras knowingly handles Kervel's little flashes of sympathy for the cause. Blame It On Fidel features a neat sequence where Kervel, a classroom know-it-all, tries giving the same wrong answers as the rest of her peers in the name of "group solidarity." And though Kervel complains about her new lifestyle to her best friend at school, she gets annoyed when that friend comes over to spend the night and criticizes everything—including the kindly revolutionaries who gather in the kitchen at night and share their food. Gavras puts her child star in nearly every shot, sharing her perspective and her uncertainly as she asks her dad why he's coming so late to the '60s youth movement. (When he says he was wrong not to take to the streets of Paris in May of '68, she pointedly asks, "How can you be sure you're not wrong now?") But while Kervel will probably have to have her own children before she fully understands the changes parents go through, she's bound to adjust to her folks' whims. Having no power of her own, what choice does she have?

Filed Under: Film

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