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L' Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child) (1970)



Average Rating: 8.6/10
Critic Reviews: 13
Fresh: 13 | Rotten: 0

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 3,799

My Rating

Movie Info

Based on a real-life case study, recorded in Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard's 1806 volume Memoire et Rapport sur Victor de L'Aveyron, The Wild Child is spiritually in line with François Truffaut's other films about the pains of adolescence. Truffaut himself plays Dr. Jean Itard, a doctor working at Paris' Institute for the Deaf and Dumb. Itard takes on the challenge of Victor (Jean-Pierre Cargol), a nonverbal "wild boy" found abandoned in the woods. Realizing that the Institute's rather cruel methods


Art House & International, Drama

Jul 24, 2001

United Artists - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (28) | Top Critics (14) | Fresh (27) | Rotten (0)

The Wild Child is fascinating not only for its Tarzan-like true-life story, but also for what it says about the process of nurturing and educating children, and the tools we use -- language, discipline, affection -- to do so.

February 19, 2009 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Nearly four decades after its release, The Wild Child remains startling for its humane clarity, for Nestor Almendros's brilliant black-and-white photography, and for the sense that Truffaut is achieving filmmaking mastery on a very small scale.

February 5, 2009 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
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An enduring film of enchanting and provocative revelation.

January 9, 2009 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
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Nearly 40 years after its initial release, Francois Truffaut's The Wild Child (L'Enfant Sauvage) still manages to cast its haunting, poetic spell.

December 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
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Truffaut never upstages the astounding Cargol; both performers underplay in perfect harmony, turning the story into a duet of paternal affection and paradise lost.

November 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
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Rather than present a clichéd fall from grace, Truffaut elicits ambivalence by closely tracking the Enlightened scientist's optimism; after the fascination, our inchoate sadness seeps in.

November 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
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Makes a heartfelt entry in Truffaut's filmography, yet another story of an unwanted kid.

August 16, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

Francois Truffaut was not only a founder of the French New Wave, he was a passionate and keen chronicler of young people, how they grew and evolved and sought purpose in a larger world.

May 1, 2009
Kansas City Star

A fascinating film, with an astonishing performance by young Cargol.

March 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Truffaut plays Itard, a representative of the Age of Reason who never questions the benefits of civilization...Truffaut the filmmaker is more suspicious of Itard's motives...

February 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Playback:stl

Offers a reassuring liberal outlook that has the hubris to think that one can cure anyone who is ill with proper education and treatment.

November 3, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews | Comments (2)
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

often overlooked film will stimulate educators and anyone interested in the learning process

April 2, 2005 Full Review Source: Old School Reviews
Old School Reviews

Probably the director's most ambitious film, The Wild Child spins a modern myth with resonances...and through it all Truffaut examines the many issues at hand with warmth, concern and wisdom.

July 30, 2003 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

The detail of the boy's journey from wild child to surrogate son of the doctor and his housekeeper is authentic and painstaking.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4

Strongly recommended.

August 16, 2001 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Audience Reviews for L' Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child)

Many have criticised Francois Truffaut for making Wild Child, claiming that the film is far too clinical but is also of a subject matter that he wasn't academically capable of telling correctly. Many people criticised David Lynch in exactly the same way when he made The Elephant Man, which is now regarded as a classic and the only difference I can see between the two is that it seems more people have seen The Elephant Man - this true story being the better known of the two. First off, the young Jean-Pierre Cargol was fantastic as the Ferrel Victor, I'm amazed he didn't continue a career in acting. Also, the passion Truffaut felt for the story is evident in every scene, it's evident in the fact he didn't trust anyone but himself to star in it. It may have been clinical at time but the source material was from Dr. Jean Itard's notes and diary and actually transferring that to the screen was a very clever and original direction. I can't say I've seen it executed so successfully since other than in the aforementioned The Elephant Man. Personally, I loved it.
November 22, 2011

Super Reviewer

Based on the subject and the director's nationality, I assumed that this film would be some kind of restatement or exploration of Rousseau's "noble savage" theory, and though there is some of this discussion in one or two lines, the film doesn't spend much time juxtaposing modernity and the "wild" child's original habitat. Based on all the critics' reviews, this film is an exploration or discussion of child development, but there is very little original presented here. So, I'm left struggling to figure out what this film is about and why people like it so much. I found the story to be merely a French, poor man's Miracle Worker, and I found the acting, especially by Truffaut, to be stilted and staid. Even Truffaut's direction lacks vigor. Almost every scene is a motionless three-quarter shot, backed by a heavy-handed harpsichord.
Overall, I neither found this intellectually nor emotionally compelling. Like Truffaut's acting, it was just there, saying nothing interesting or interestingly.
February 26, 2011
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Truffaut's docu-drama about the discovery of a small boy living completely on his own in the forests of France in the late 18th century. Much more academic than most of his other films, it's nonetheless fascinating to watch. A study in child development and psychology.
September 25, 2009
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

"The Wild Child" is an engaging film, but it's hard to guess why director Francois Truffaut felt compelled to tell this simple story. The premise (a patient 18th-century teacher, played by Truffaut himself, eases a feral pre-teen into civilization) is quite straightforward, and the boy doesn't advance enough to fully please an audience (you may be surprised when the film abruptly ends). And there aren't any notable directing choices beyond a few nostalgic iris shots. Perhaps this tale should be loosely filed with "Small Change" and "The 400 Blows" as just another look at children finding their way in the world.

Jean-Pierre Cargol is impressive in the title role. He only says one word, but is put through quite a physical test.
November 12, 2011
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Der Wolfsjunge (DE)
  • The Wild Child (L'Enfant sauvage) (UK)
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