The Marching Band


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

The Marching Band
"The two siblings bond and the disparate threads of their relationship prove immensely touching as they ruminate on the lost years and chances." | Photo: Thibault Grabherr

Inevitably it’s going to be compared to Mark Herman’s Brassed Off, the British comedy-drama about colliery bands, but this French contribution to what could become a “genre” if there’s any more of them, has a beating emotional pulse all of its own.

To be sure it’s feel-good and sentimental but none the worse for any of that. Emmanuel Courcol on his third directorial outing after Ceasefire (Cessez-le-feu) in 2016 and The Big Hit (Un triomphe) in 2020 treads the tightrope between tearjerker, social upheaval, and family dynamics with skilful aplomb.

The focus here is on the relationship between two brothers - Thibaut (Benjamin Lavernhe) and Jimmy (Pierre Lottin) who share a love of music. At the start of the film they are unaware of each other’s existence because they have grown up separately having been adopted by different families.

They seem to be worlds apart. Thibaut is a rather solitary internationally renowned conductor with the Lille Symphony Orchestra who has an assured professional future while Jimmy is a divorced dad with a daughter works in a factory canteen, plays in a local brass band and suffers from an inferiority complex.

The two come together when Thibaut discovers he has leukaemia and needs a bone marrow transplant - and after investigation finds that he has a long lost brother who would be a perfect match. The procedure is carried out apparently with success. Later Thibaut visits Jimmy’s impoverished small town in the north of France where the marching band are under threat with the closure of the factory. “The posh boy" agrees to help coach them for a regional competition. Despite initial mistrust by Jimmy, the two siblings bond and the disparate threads of their relationship prove immensely touching as they ruminate on the lost years and chances.

Although the performances of Lavernhe and Lottin take up most of the screen time along with the assorted band members, Sarah Suco is equally affecting as Jimmy’s much put-upon partner.

Written by the director alongside Irène Mascara, the film unashamedly wears its heart on its sleeve with the musical score firmly centre stage including the powerful use of Ravel’s Bolero for a rousing finale. Even the most austere observer would be hard-pushed not to shed a tear or two.

Reviewed on: 28 May 2024
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A conductor discovers he was adopted and has a younger sibling.

Director: Emmanuel Courcol

Writer: Emmanuel Courcol, Irène Muscari

Starring: Benjamin Lavernhe, Pierre Lottin, Ludmila Mikaël, Jacques Bonnaffé, Sarah Suco, Nathalie Desrumaux

Year: 2024

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: France


Cannes 2024

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