I found this film confronting to watch, to say the least. It contains a more than its fair share of violence however this violence is necessary to explain the journey that Malony Ferrandot embarks on in Standing Tall.
Standing Tall is a drama about the efforts made by social services to repair the life of a juvenile delinquent. It opens with a scene that’s helps us to understand the backward slide of this youth.
First seen at roughly aged 6, Malony Ferrandot sits in the office of a magistrate, Judge Blaque, as his extremely young mother takes no responsibility for him. She first yells at him and then by gets up and leaves him behind, yelling over her shoulder that someone else can take responsibility for him.
The movie then jumps forward a decade with newcomer Rod Paradot taking over the role of Malony, who has become a car thief and discipline case, forever on the verge of exploding into anger.
No matter how self-destructive his behaviour gets, it’s impossible not to remember the sad little boy from the start of the film, which helps the viewer understand why Judge Blaque and other adults refuse to declare Malony a lost cause.
Hard to watch, but even harder to look away, Standing Tall relies on the talents of two actors to carry the film: Rod Paradot as the delinquent and Catherine Deneuve as the Judge (aided by Benoit Magimel as the social worker)
Paradot is magnificent in the central role, alternating rage and despair. Even though he does not elicit sympathy at most times throughout the film, one cannot help but feel sympathy for him being caught in the legal system. The gradual change in his character is remarkable for an actor his age.
Catherine Deneuve, as the judge who never loses faith in Malony, more than demonstrates her experience as an actor to deliver thoughts and feelings without having to resort to lots of dialogue or overacting. She is a lesson in “less is more”.
My only reservations about the film were its length and its reliance on hopelessness until the resolution at the end (which I will not divulge in this review).
Even though Standing Tall is confronting and long, it is worth a watch. Its themes of youth versus the law are universal.
Reviewed by Barry Hill
Rating out of 10: 8