These Boy's Lives Through These Boys' Eyes

Ameriean filmmakers construct children as archetypes, sanctifying them as angelic victims, demonizing them in horror flicks, or turning them into cute little dancing bears. The French are more matter-offact: to them, children are short people with their own worldly cunning. Agnes Mm let’s debut film, Sun of the Shark (Le fils du requin), tells the story of two brothers (played with extraordinary poise by nonactors she found in a provincial school) who, abandoned by their mother and alternately abused and neglected by their drunken father, terrorize the inhabitants of their provincial town with random violence. The adults around them respond with a mixture of passivity, indulgence, and reactive punishment that confirms the boys’ experience of a life without safety, comfort, or predictable boundaries. All they have is a fierce if ambivalent loyalty to each other and a rich fantasy life about fish, drawn from a book about sharks left by their mother, which lends Son of the Shark its austere poetry. The point of view belongs to the boys, and the film never sentimentalizes them. Watching them, we are stranded between pity at the arbitrariness of their world and revulsion at the savageiy of their revenge.