The Choir


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Choir
"The strength of the film lies in the singing, which Girard himself directed."

The story of an already troubled boy whose life is propelled into further chaos by his mother's death, The Choir walks an awkward line between Dickens and Disney, always in danger of being suffocated by sentiment or reaching a level of grimness that's just too much for its target audience. It's a children's film that will be best received by eight to 12-year-olds - a fair percentage of those who go along will come out wanting singing lessons - but it will also appeal to adults who love choral singing because it showcases some notable vocal talents.

Films about singing that focus on boys are a rarity, so there's something of a Billy Elliot element to this, and it will have particular appeal to boys who have interests outside what has been traditionally accepted as masculine. Loud mouthed even when he's not singing and always ready for a fight, young hero Stet shows that a love of music doesn't require a boy to be a delicate flower. He does discover, however, that his aggression can get in the way of achieving the things he wants in life. This is a film that's less about a poor suffering child who needs rescue and more about a boy who tackles his own problems and overcomes them as much through determination as through talent or luck.

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Young Garrett Wareing, playing Stet, certainly has talent, and copes admirably with scenes in which he's required to do several difficult things at the same time. This level of skill is important because he's paired with Dustin Hoffman (as grudging mentor Master Carvelle), who could easily dominate the film but who, with his habitual grace, makes room for the younger actor to shine. Though the other actors don't deliver anything particularly memorable, this central pairing anchors the film and lends some solidity to what is a pretty predictable plot.

All the familiar elements are here: the bullying, the second chances, the rejection, the last minute chances for redemption. Director Girard, whose career has been heavily focused on films about music, is in his element with the choir scenes but brings nothing fresh to the staging of the wider story. Everything is very prettily lit by David Franco, but the strength of the film lies in the singing, which Girard himself directed. This is the best reason to go and see it in the cinema, where it can benefit from a huge sound system.

If music like this isn't your thing, you're unlikely to find the film thrilling; but if your kids want to go, indulge them. You could do a lot worse.

Reviewed on: 09 Jul 2015
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A boy from a troubled background washes up in an elite music school where his very survival depends on his voice - and on controlling his temper.
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Director: François Girard

Writer: Ben Ripley

Starring: Garrett Wareing, Dustin Hoffman, Joe West, Debra Winger, Kevin McHale, Josh Lucas

Year: 2014

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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The Chorus