I am gobsmacked this movie has slipped away from a larger release. I get email updates from most movie distributors and A BAG OF MARBLES or in its original French, UN SAC DE BILLES, popped up on the email from Umbrella Entertainment. The email said “Released Today,” thought i’d click on the trailer and have a read about it. I was won over immediately. I emailed them back and asked for a screener. And my Friday night movie was sorted. A BAG OF MARBLES is out now on a criminally limited release, the full list of cinemas screening it is listed at the end of the article. It is rated M and runs for 112mins – it has French subtitles.


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Dorian Le Clech as Joseph and Batyste Fleurial as Maurice



A BAG OF MARBLES is an autobiographical book from author Joseph Joffo. His book of the same name was published in 1973 to critical acclaim and best seller lists. Quite a few critics complained he could not remember so much detail thirty years following the occupation and that perhaps it was more a fabricated retrospective idea from the author. I don’t care either way – I cannot personally fathom that a group of humans could do something so vile to other humans. But it is still happening daily so the evil in the world is surely possible. A BAG OF MARBLES is also told through the eyes of a child, and this is what makes it so marvellous.

When Joseph Joffo was ten years old, his parents gave him and his brother Maurice some money and a map and sent them on a dangerous mission to escape Nazi-occupied Paris in 1941. Making their way to the demilitarised zone in the South, the boys become unavoidably caught in the whirlwind of war. Aided by the occasional kind soul, the two young boys swerve and dart through obstacles set by Nazi soldiers to avoid succumbing to the dreadful fate of so many others in this situation.

It should also be noted that the book was so successful in 1973 that in 1975 they made the first adaptation to a movie, I couldn’t find the trailer to show you but this is in effect a remake, or retelling, if you prefer.


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Dorian Le Clech as Joseph, Patrick Bruel as Roman and Batyste Fleurial as Maurice



I am astounded this is not getting promoted and getting a much wider release. This should be a Dendy and Palace embraced film for sure. It has subs so I can’t imagine the majors playing it. The way it takes and French occupation and tells it through a child’s eyes is both harrowing and beautiful. I cannot comprehend how I would cope in the situation but how the hell would a ten year old? The thing that kept going through my mind was “how do they eat?” I realise the film is somewhat simplified and told through the eyes of the child but just imagine your child in this situation! How on earth is there evil this immense to treat children this way?

Joseph and Maurice were not only incredibly lucky in their situation but more so lucky that they had each other. The one line from Maurice to Joseph while piggy backing him had me tearing up, “you’re my brother, I would carry you to the end of the earth.” Then ten metres later saying “get off, you’re too heavy.” Had me in hysterics.


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Dorian Le Clech as Joseph and Batyste Fleurial as Maurice



Technically A BAG OF MARBLES is a big budget production. It is directed by Christian Duguay, no wonder I love it. He directed the Belle and Sebastian sequel, BELLE AND SEBASTIAN: THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES. He also directed SCREAMERS, THE ART OF WAR and the JOAN OF ARC mini-series to name a few. Duguay knows how to work with children and it shows onscreen, always obtaining remarkable performances from his charges. Christophe Graillot shoots the film to remarkable effect. His cinematography in this is similar and as beautiful to look at as his work on BELLE AND SEBASTIAN: THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES. It appears Graillot and Duguay collaborate on a few projects, a great team indeed.


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Dorian Le Clech as Joseph and Coline Leclère as Françoise



Dorian Le Clech is just superb as the lead, Joseph. A flawless performance from a child so young. Batyste Fleurial is as good in his performance as Maurice. From his bio, the man who plays their father, Patrick Bruel, is one of the most known and famous actors in France. His delivery his admirable and that moment you see the pain break him as a father had me weeping. It was also the nudge Maurice needed to become the strong brother and ensure their survival.

The rest of the characters were all smaller roles that did not stand out from the leads. One thing did strike me as odd though. The two older brothers of Joseph and Maurice were so incredibly minor that they really didn’t even speak a word. They were inconsequential characters merely in the background. It always struck me as odd that the family did not split the children to one older and one younger. The mother stated “no one would ever suspect two young children.” But they totally would, why would two children be out and about on their own, during a war? Why not send an 20yr old with a 10yr old? Makes more sense to me.




A BAG OF MARBLES will make my Top 20 films of 2017. I am surprised this is not showing in more places. If you can, get to one of the listed cinemas to see it. It is a remarkable tale of survival and a brilliant addition to the heartbreaking but needed World War 2 movie canon.





 owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the  industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 


** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.


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