The Round Up - DVD Review

'Hitler being caught on camera dancing is not a wise move in a film with such worthy intentions'

The Round Up's awful first act - set in cheaply-made and shot Parisian streets where twee dialogue and soap opera situations seem de rigueur - belies a drama which improves as its subject matter grows inevitably grimmer. Writer/director Rose Bosch might not know how to direct family scenes of everyday mundanity with any authenticity worth shouting about but as the plight of French Jews during 1942 moves first to a fecund velodrome and then to a camp on the outskirts of the capital her directorial skills perk noticeably.

In the second and third acts the character focus of The Round Up is infinitely sharper, the script noticeably tighter, the drama better produced. Mélanie Laurent (arguably the most naturally charming screen presence currently available) is allowed to shine much brighter whilst the slightly annoying child leads (actually labelled as 'scamps' at one point: film code for 'annoyingly positive brats') find more depth in their characters and more restraint in their portrayals. Jean Reno, wasted throughout, sadly isn't pulled along in this two act revival.

Some problems with Bosch's film pervade throughout, noticeably the wavering tone which, just occasionally hints at parody, despite this obviously not being the intention. Hitler being caught on camera dancing is not a wise move in a film with such worthy intentions, nor is the decision to frame every meeting between a couple of Nazi's with a swastika flag and enough Nazi paraphernalia to fill a museum, the set dressing coming to resemble something out of an edgy sketch show. There's also an apparent need by Bosch to redeem as many people as possible and so few genuinely evil individuals emerge, with even the Tom Selleck-mustachioed prison camp guard showing a human side afore the film's conclusion.

It touches on melodrama towards the end too but Laurent at the emotional heart of the film is enough to secure engagement and attachment. The details of the story still shock and resonate today and Bosch just about succeeds in portraying an individual element in amongst a mass of humanity whose degradation and suffering the film takes great pains to remember. It won't define the sub-genre of films which deal with the holocaust but it is a worthy and respectful addition which, with a 12 rating in the UK, is appropriate as a delicate introduction for those of a certain age.

The Round Up is out on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK from Monday 18th July 2011.

Look further...

'The film's glossy colour palette and stylisation may initially give the impression of a quaint period film but ultimately there is no denying the power of the events' - The Guardian


  1. Look out for Sarah's Key which is also on this particular round up. It hasn't played in the UK or the States yet but has just been released on DVD here in NZ. I saw it several months ago and it done very well at the NZ box office. I just haven't been able to review as I don't think I'd be able to do it any justice.
    I can never figure out why such similar films come out at roughly the same time. Sarah's Key is in French and English and has one of the best child performances I've seen it quite a number of years. Judging from your review it is the superior film and I believe historically accurate. Probably because it is French and not a Hollywood abortion of the facts!
    I will be seeing this absoltuely because it is the period of history that fasinates me the most.

  2. Ah, interesting. Just looked it up. That's another one of Kristin Scott Thomas's French films. I loved I'VE LOVED YOU SO LONG but hated LEAVING. Coming to the UK in August and I'll be sure to give it a look.

  3. Yeah I really liked I've Loved You so Long as well, but missed Leaving which played here a few months ago. I have heard absolutely nothing about it and was anooyed it passed me by.
    I think you'll like Sarah's Key. It is emotional as hell, but it annoys me that so much attention was made of Thomas because it isn't her movie at all it is the young French girls.
    Did you like Thomas in Easy Virtue?? I thought she played the snooty old bitch particularly well!

  4. Not seen Easy Virtue but I will give anything with her in it a watch. It's a double-edged sword; these relatively small French films are getting good press because she's in them but inevitably that means the focus of the coverage spends a decent amount of time on her.