Declaration of War
Mary Dieng

Directed By: Valérie Donzelli

Starring: Valérie Donzelli, Jérémie Elkaïm, and César Desseix

A parent’s worst nightmare is that their child will become sick.  From the moment you have a baby, you feel an overwhelming need to protect him or her from anything and everything.  But there are some things, like disease, that even mom can’t make go away.  The French film Declaration of War takes us into the heart of a family’s struggle with the unthinkable.

Romeo (Jeremie Elkaim) and Juliette (Valérie Donzelli) meet at a nightclub in Paris.  Juliette catches Romeo’s eye across the crowded smoky club, and it’s love at first sight.  When they first meet and realize their names are Shakespearean, they joke that they are destined for a tragic end.  But a whirlwind romance follows, and Juliette and Romeo fall hard and fast for each other.  Soon after, they welcome a new little bundle of joy, Adam.  Initially, Adam cries all the time, driving his parents, especially his father, crazy.  The strain threatens to drive the new couple apart.  But after sound advice from a doctor, Adam calms down and all is well.

As Adam approaches two, he begins to vomit uncontrollably and he still cannot walk.  At first, his parents are in denial.  No parent wants to think that anything is seriously wrong with a child.  But then they notice that Adam’s face is slightly swollen, and after a rush visit to a specialist, they discover that Adam has a brain tumor.  They run, they cry, they scream and it is heartbreaking to watch.  But in the end, they do what parents must do and declare war on the disease that is threatening to take the life of their child.

Directed by and starring Donzelli, Declaration of War is a different take on the fight against cancer.  It is not overly sentimental, and actually has quite an edge to it.  The score, the setting, the camera work and the passionate love between Romeo and Juliette all work together to create a compelling story.  I was almost ready to give Declaration of War a 0.03% rating, when the characters oddly broke into song during a pivotal scene.  While some may have found this scene charming and loving, I found it to be cheesy and unnecessary.

In addition, there was random dialogue between the couple where they compared all of the horrible aftereffects that they were afraid would result from brain surgery—along with a fear that Adam could go blind, deaf or mute-they also feared that he would turn into a dwarf, a homosexual, Black, or a right wing conservative.  Insert blank stare.

Overall, Declaration of War is a good story about the strain (physical, emotional and financial), the heartache and the tribulations that families battling cancer deal with.  I would recommend a cabernet sauvignon to get you through some of the more painful sequences.  But don’t get too tipsy, or you may have difficulty catching all of the subtitles as the film is in French.