Standing Tall

Standing Tall movie poster

Standing Tall poster

Malony is your typical troubled kid from Dunkirk. Frail, blond with light eyes, he skips school to steal cars and doesn’t fit the clichéd immigrant profile: we quickly understand that director Emmanuelle Bercot wants to avoid stigmatizing part of the population, Standing Tall focusing instead on those people whose jobs are to save kids. Through Malony’s 10-year learning journey, the filmmaker pays homage to these judges and educators and the result is somewhat reminiscent of Polisse, which should’’t surprise you since Ms. Bercot penned the script for Maïwenn’s film as well.

Raised by a lonely, distraught mother, Malony finds “father”-like figure in a judge (Catherine Deneuve – Belle de Jour) showing authority but also forgiveness; his educator (Benoît Magimel – The Piano Teacher) will act as a substitute big brother. Somewhat repetitive, the first half of the film connects various the sequences emphasizing a vicious cycle filled with rises and falls.

Malony is obviously the core of this film. The non-professional actor Rod Paradot delivers a strong performance as an annoying, hysterical boy reminiscent of Xavier Dolan’s central character in Mommy. Ms. Bercot is however able to make him appealing, revealing fragility behind the violence.

The issue is that Standing Tall is overwritten and too excessive to make believers out of us. The filmmaker creates stereotypes while trying to avoid clichés and ends up acting like a demagogue. It’s easy to anticipate the script’s good intentions and from love to redemption – here comes the girlfriend –, the movie advances blatantly toward your typical feel-good conclusion – be assured that Malony will finally take responsibility and grow to become a better person.

Adding to this thin attempt at psychology, the movie also features quite a few caricatured characters where actors overplay what’s pretty obvious – for example, one under-educated, struggling character speaks making grotesque grammar mistakes. This is even more disappointing as other actors are doing such a fine job. In the end, despite some qualities and good will, Standing Tall isn’t able to convince, which is regrettable.

Director: Emmanuelle Bercot – Actors:  Catherine Deneuve, Benoît Magimel – Running Time: 1:59  – Year: 2015 – Country: France
Click here to watch the Standing Tall trailer
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Moland Fengkov

Moland Fengkov

Based in Paris, Moland is a journalist and photographer; He is more particularly responsible for covering the Cannes film festival for Plume Noire, writing movie reviews and taking gorgeous pictures.
Moland Fengkov

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