A huge hit in its native France, period drama The Chorus sticks to a familiar songsheet: the one where a kindly teacher (slaphead musician Gerard Jugnot) slowly but very surely wins over his urchin pupils. Yet even though all the notes are predictable, the film hits them with wit, warmth and gusto. Centred on the soaring sound of a boys' choir, this Oscar nominee may be a school of schlock, but if you're willing to submit, it'll charm your ears and toast your cockles.
The second we see the teddy-bear face of Clement Mathieu (Jugnot) as he arrives at a prison-like boarding school in 1949, we know where this is heading. Soon enough, other well-worn types start to emerge: there's the cherubic orphan (Maxence Perrin), the bad apple (Gregory Gatignol) and the especially time-honoured Sulky Kid Who's Hiding A Phenomenal Talent (Jean-Baptiste Maunier's Morhange). And then, of course, there's the heartless headmaster (Francois Berleand), who believes in discipline but not reform and frowns upon our hero's every effort to inspire the kids.
"BOASTS A LIKEABLE SINCERITY"
Nonetheless, committed turns from all concerned bring a likeable sincerity to the sentiment-doused proceedings. Writer/director Christophe Barratier's nimble touch helps too, and he certainly doesn't waste his trump card: the Petits Chanteurs de Saint Marc choir, who supply the on-screen boys' angelic vocals. It's a shame that the climactic "Oh captain, my captain" moment - here involving paper aeroplanes - doesn't pack quite the punch you expect. Still, by this point in the film, you'll be as won over as the little lads themselves.
In French with English subtitles.