Come What May: Inglorious, by David Bax
Come What May is the newest film from French director Christian Carion, best known in America for Joyeux Noel, the World War I drama that got some attention and a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination about ten years ago. This time around, he’s updated his setting to the second World War but he’s still serving up the kind of handsome, conventional, crowd-pleasing schmaltz that may earn him awards attention once again.
Hans (August Diehl) is a member of a German anti-Hitler opposition group who flees to France with his son, Max (Joshio Marlon), and finds refuge in a small town. Shortly after, though, the Germans invade France and, while the town decamps en masse for the South, Hans and Max are separated. While the townsfolk make their way slowly along backroads with the boy in tow and their country falling apart around them, Hans teams up with a Scottish officer named Percy (Matthew Rhys) who has become separated from the rest of his unit. The two men sneak their way through occupied territory toward the hope of safety and reunions.
When Carion focuses on the townspeople’s narrative, Come What May has echoes of the charm of those British village movies (The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain, Saving Grace, Calendar Girls, etc.) but with even more thinly drawn characters. There’s the blowhard mayor, his obstinate but compassionate wife, the angelically caring schoolteacher and a whole hoard of interchangeably citizenry. And if the premise of a whole town fleeing the Germans calls to mind the Taviani brothers’ wonderful The Night of the Shooting Stars, the comparison doesn’t do this film any favors. Carion attempts to raise the stakes with cheesy-looking swarms of CGI planes and tanks (bad effects always stick out more in bad movies) but the only successful additive to Come What May is the score by Ennio Morricone.
On those occasions when Carion does approach compelling ideas, he seems far too willing to abandon them in favor of more tropes and platitudes. A scene in which Hans, Percy and a Frenchman named Albert (Laurent Gerra) shares many bottles of wine picks at the intra-European resentments that carry on even among those on the same side of the conflict. And later, the first time Hans and Percy encounter German soldiers, the story switches to their point of view, encouraging subjective sympathy and hinting at a better movie that is anti-war rather glorifying of it. Alas, the enemy returns permanently to being heartless butchers thereafter, cruel but challenging only in the most superficial ways.
The cast, unfortunately, is unable to bring any compelling nuance to the proceedings. Diehl, recognizable from the basement tavern shootout scene in Inglourious Basterds, is far too eager to show off how much he is acting. And Rhys, so good on The Americans, has little to do beside serving as Max’s capable, stoic Obi-Wan.
That’s the case with the whole movie, really. There’s nothing more to it than meets the eye. Its lessons about cooperation and everyone fulfilling roles in the group according to their own strengths are high school essay basic. Not that that stops Come What May from stating them out loud.