The Fox and the Child
Directed By: Luc Jacquet
Starring: Kate Winslet, Bertille Noël-Bruneau
Luc Jacquet's The Fox and the Child tells a simple story of a young girl (Noël-Bruneau) who becomes fascinated by a fox she sees one afternoon in the forest adjacent to her home. The film tracks her efforts to see and befriend the fox over the course of a year, following the child and the fox on their own as well as when their paths intersect. The story is narrated reflectively by the girl as an adult (voice of Kate Winslet).
After the success he found by grafting a simple story onto some amazing nature footage with March of the Penguins, director Luc Jacquet once again tries his hand at creating a hybrid nature documentary/narrative film. While the narrative of …Penguins was more or less found in the process of assembling and re-assembling the footage into the final film, The Fox and the Child was conceived from the ground up as such a film based loosely on a childhood memory of Jacquet where he was fascinated by a fox he encountered near his home.
The narrative is simple in its construction, almost to a fault. While this may put off viewers with short attention spans, the film is so clearly about evoking a child's sense of wonder in nature and reinforcing it with some impressive documentary-style footage that it manages to succeed with only a wisp of a plot.
Some of the more impressive footage involves foxes evading predators ranging from wolves to hawks. Perhaps even more fascinating is the footage taken of foxes and their offspring inside their dens. I would love to have seen how this footage was captured. Some of the footage appears to be staged with trained animals, but even taking that into account, there were plenty of shots in the film I still have not figured out how Jacquet managed to achieve.
In the grand children's fable tradition; my overprotective parenting instincts had me wanting to prosecute the girl's parents (not portrayed on screen) for neglect for letting this ten year old wander unsupervised through woods filled with coyotes, bears, perilous chasms, and other dangers so often. Other than that small bit of standard parental anxiety, this film should be enjoyable for both children and adults as long as adults approach it expecting more of a nature documentary than an involved narrative.
The 16:9 enhanced 2.35:1 video presentation varies from spectacular to disappointing on a shot by shot basis. The major culprit appears to be compression artifacts as a beautiful, highly detailed shot of a forest clearing can suddenly erupt into an annoying mess of mpeg mosquito noise with the slightest movement of the camera. Color and contrast are generally very good, but a higher bitrate or more careful compression could have gone a long way towards doing justice to the outstanding cinematography.
The only audio option is a Dolby Digital 5.1 English track, and it is generally quite pleasing. The mix uses the surrounds and LFE sparingly but effectively to enhance scenes that warrant it - immersing the viewer in the natural world of the forest. I was a bit surprised that there was no French language track (or even subtitles), as the film was clearly produced in French and all of the closing credits are also in French. This is a minor quibble since dubbed dialog is used only sparingly (although no on-screen credit is given for the child's voice in English).
I was hoping for some behind the scenes information on how the nature footage was captured, but there are no proper extras on this DVD at all. The closest one gets is when the disc is first spun up and the viewer is greeted with the following promos for titles coming soon or now available on DVD:
- Follow that Bird 25th Anniversary Deluxe DVD (4:3 Letterboxed - :32)
- Snoopy's Reunion Deluxe Edition DVD (including Flashbeagle) (4:3 - 1:14)
- Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective (1:04)
The disc is packaged in a standard size "Ecobox" case (Amaray size with spokes cut out, presumably to use less plastic) with an insert with instructions for how the viewer can access a reduced price Windows Media digital copy.
The Fox and the Child presents a charming if slow moving hybrid of narrative children's film and nature documentary. I would recommend it for family viewing for anyone who would be interested in the impressive nature footage. It is presented on DVD with video quality that does not quite do justice to the impressive cinematography due to some annoyingly frequent compression artifacts that mar what looks like a decent underlying transfer. The English 5.1 track is enjoyably immersive, but the original French language track is not included. No extras are present on the disc.