“Come What May (“En mai, fais ce qu’il te plait”)
An Ideological Conflict
Christian Carion set “Come What May” in 1939 just as the Germans are at the border of Arras. The French are distraught by their present circumstances and hope for a day when they can return to their regular lives. By 1940, they were fleeing their homes and farms as Nazi solders invaded the country. Hans (August Diehl) and his son Max (Joshio Marlon) leave their home in France and go to the plush rural area of Nord-Pas-de-Calais. But when they learn that the German soldiers are on their way, they and the townsfolk leave the area by foot and horse-drawn carriages. The mayor Paul (Olivier Gourmet) and schoolteacher Suzanne (Alice Isaaz) are the leaders of this caravan of pilgrims trying to escape the invading Germans.
In the mass confusion of the exodus, Hans is separated from Max and teams up with Percy (Matthew Rhys), a Scottish soldier whose comrades were executed by the Germans. Hans desperately wants to reunite with his son while Percy hopes to connect with the retreating British army.
The film’s most dramatic moments come when German bombers fly over the town caravan and return again and again to mow down the French men, women, and children. There is little that their leader, the mayor, can do and Suzanne tries to look after the lost and lonely Max.
The film emphasizes the plights of Hans and his son Max as they struggle to survive without each other. We learn that over 90,000 children during this period were separated from their parents and forced to witness the brutality and constant bloodshed of war. The fate of refugees is much in the news these days, Suddenly the story of refugees attempting to flee danger for the supposedly safety of the United States had a whole new relevance. Something at least somewhat similar is at play in this film that documents a different kind of Exodus. While it’s not generally known outside of France, a large migration of people traveled huge distances in an attempt to escape the invading Germans as spring gave way to summer in 1940, many of them leaving their villages in the north for supposedly safer climes in the south.
Hans and his son Max had already managed to escape from Germany, and just in the knick of time, since the film’s opening scene details the police coming to arrest Hans for his underground activities. Without much explanation, the film segues to France, where Hans and Max have found work while pretending to be Belgian. But even this brief moment of refuge comes to a terrible conclusion that to a new need to escape. I just wish that we could see a bit more humanity here. Unfortunately, we learn little about the characters.
The film’s narrative comes across as broken especially as it takes needless detours. There are some emotionally disturbing in the film (the deaths of both adults and children), and we get a bittersweet version of happily ever after.
Special Features and Extras include:
- Audio Commentary with Director Christian Carion has some of his family history that inspired the basic framework of this story.
- Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:16)
- The Making of Come What May (1080p; 22:21) has some good behind the scenes footage as well as more information about Carion’s family’s history, which inspired the film.
- Behind the Scenes with Ennio Morricone (1080p; 28:54) is a worthwhile homage to the iconic composer. This starts with a kind of funny anecdote by Carion where Carion relates how offended Morricone was to be brought into the project so late in the production process.
- Interview with Christian Carion and Richard Pena (1080p; 38:59) gets into some of the actual history involved as well as the film’s treatment of it.