Declaration of War (2012)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

The opening night film at this year's Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival, this exuberant and deeply moving film follows a new couple, Romeo (Jeremie Elkaim) and Juliette (Valerie Donzelli), who must face the ultimate test when they discover their new born child is very ill. Gathering their friends and family together, they confront the ordeal together as a form of warfare. Donzelli infuses the story with unexpected verve using a host of cinematic techniques, music and heartbreaking performances that results in a film about a contemporary couple who surprises even themselves with their ability to fight not only for the life of their child, but for each other. -- (C) IFC
Art House & International , Comedy , Drama , Special Interest
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César Desseix
as Adam at 18 Months
Gabriel Elkaïm
as Adam at 8 Years
Brigitte Sy
as Claudia
Michèle Moretti
as Geneviève
Anne Le Ny
as Dr. Fitoussi
Frederic Pierrot
as Professor Sainte-Rose
Elisabeth Dion
as Dr. Kalifa of the IG R
Laure Marsac
as Auxiliary Nurse
Emmanuel Salinger
as Radiologist
Pauline Gaillard
as Narrator
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Critic Reviews for Declaration of War

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (21)

True to its title, "Declaration of War" is a visceral, forthright visit to the front lines of battle, where superhuman courage is called for as life-or-death skirmishes turn into a long slog of survival.

Full Review… | March 22, 2012
Washington Post
Top Critic

The tonal shifts, the "Amelie"-style voiceover and the punk-retro soundtrack may jar some viewers who expect uninterrupted violins, but "Declaration of War" is alternative therapy that really works.

Full Review… | March 8, 2012
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

The subject matter is as serious as can be, yet the style is vibrant, energetic and engaging -- often tense, but without a trace of woe-is-me.

Full Review… | February 17, 2012
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

"Declaration of War" movingly chronicles a unique and terrible fight: that of two parents against the cancer that has invaded the brain of their 18-month-old son.

February 16, 2012
Seattle Times
Top Critic

As ponderous and overwrought as a film hogged by a couple of young hipsters named Roméo and Juliette can be.

Full Review… | February 16, 2012
Boston Globe
Top Critic

The film may even be too upbeat, especially the ending, which is too easy and contrived. Yet there's real emotion here...

Full Review… | February 15, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Declaration of War


Welcome to indie film hell, where childhood cancer is stylized in a way that makes it seem twee and inconsequential. It's fine if a director, known or unknown, wants to make something for the hipster set. Go ahead, pack in all the playful technique, skinny jeans, and Sigur Ros music you want into your stupid movie. What's unfortunate-and I'd argue just plain wrong-is when gravely serious subjects are handled in such a manner. That's where Valérie Donzelli's Declaration of War comes in. It's not hard to guess where this film is going once its main characters introduce themselves to us as Romeo (Jérémie Elkaïm) and Juliette (Donzelli herself), though the very beginning is a framing device set a half-decade after these two first meet. Juliette is in the hospital with her son, Adam. The doctor calls his name, and we see her waiting patiently while he undergoes a CAT scan. Cut to a party, presumably years earlier, where Juliette is fighting off the unwanted advancements of several potential suitors before she catches the eye of Romeo. Their courtship is a quick one, and before you know it, Juliette is giving birth to a chubby baby boy. Neither she nor Romeo is quite ready to be a parent, but they're both admirably committed to their new duties. Things get complicated, however, when Adam begins to show signs of slow development. They take him in for a checkup, and their pediatrician's concerns are serious enough that a neurologist is called upon for advice. He locates a large, aggressive brain tumor, which requires immediate surgery and extensive chemotherapy. It's going to be a long fight, they're told, but the boy can win it if Romeo and Juliette keep it together and be strong for their son. It doesn't take long for Declaration of War to lose you (the framing device strips the narrative as a whole of any real dramatic tension), but the magnitude of its crimes don't make themselves evident until the film's second half. This is when the film's narrator skips entire chapters of Romeo and Juliette's lives, when house music accompanies Juliette while she receives awful news, and when the couple, while apart, telepathically sings the same forlorn song, stealing a page out of PTA's Magnolia playbook. Donzelli is clearly attempting to make familiar material edgier-something that should be encouraged-but she goes about it all wrong. Her off-kilter flourishes strip the film of any sincerity. In other words, we watch only because it's on, not because we feel anything. The performances are mostly competent, and the two leads have decent chemistry (maybe because Elkaïm and Donzelli, in fact, have a child together). The film also succeeds at depicting the way large families cope with tragedies like this. The scenes showing Romeo and Juliette relaying bits of news to their parents and friends are some of Declaration of War's best. Beyond that, however, there's little to get excited about here. It's a film that takes risks and has big ideas, but they come across as phony. With so many great foreign titles out there, why waste your time with something like this?

John Gilpatrick
John Gilpatrick

In "Declaration of War," Romeo(Jeremie Elkaim) and Juliette(Valerie Donzelli, who also directed) meet sort of cute across a room full of people, before a slap in the face brings them back to reality. They wonder with their names if a cruel fate awaits them, not realizing they are in a flashback from a time when their son will be undergoing an MRI. The relationship actually starts well enough, at least until their son Adam cannot stop crying. Relax, says Dr. Prat(Beatrice De Stael), he is just eating too much. And then another set of symptoms presents itself that are not so easily explained away... "Declaration of War" is a deeply affecting movie about how a couple's love is severely tested by their son's illness and in general reflecting the worst fears of parents everywhere.(A little late with the warning about internet searches though.) In truth, they are never alone, with a full support system of friends and family behind them. And as much as I usually hate children, I was feeling for the little fellow. So, while the movie is based on Donzelli and Elkaim's real life experiences, making an excellent movie like this out of them is nowhere near as easy as it might seem. Give full credit to Donzelli as she keeps things moving throughout by pulling out all the stops like alternating narrators and even a musical number that accentuates the melancholy mood.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer


A ridiculous and irritating film full of clichés, about an annoyingly optimistic couple out of a fairy tale facing a hard situation. Not only the narration is expository and unnecessary but everything else is also trivial and unsubtle, made by an inexpert director who never seems sure of what she wants to say.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

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