All To Play For review — An intense French family drama

 Directed by Delphine Deloget | Written by Deloget, Olivier Demangel and Camille Fontaine | 112 min | ▲▲▲△△ | VOD and digital

A heart-rending French drama about a single mother, Sylvie (Virginie Efira, phenomenal in this) whose younger son is taken away from her after he’s burned in a kitchen accident.

She works nights at a popular bar and has a teenaged, older son who helps, but he wasn’t there when the younger one decided to make french fries. This sets off a cascading series of events that brings community services to her apartment. The younger son is taken into foster care and Sylvie finds herself the victim of layers of bureaucracy working hard to keep her family apart under the guise of child protection.

Every performance is remarkable in this docudrama, as is its verisimilitude. Everyone smokes, everyone drives ancient cars and self-medicates. This is a hard life. People support each other when they can. but the fight to survive under extreme stress serves up blame, even violence.

But Deloget is also clear-eyed about what this family looks like from the outside. Sylvie leaves her children alone because she has to work to support them, a tale I’m sure as common as macarons in Paris. The bureaucracy is set up to intervene on behalf of children who are abused, but in this case what’s really needed are more resources to support a mother working hard to raise two children. The system is hateful, but its poverty that’s the true villain in this story.

All To Play For loses a grade for a peculiar conclusion that feels both unlikely and unsatisfying, leaving more questions than answers, but the picture will leave a mark.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.