Director and writer Alicia Duffy plays with the premise of childhood fantasy versus adult reality in her debut movie, using obsession and love to unite the two. The film is adapted very loosely from British author Sam Taylor's novel 'The Republic of Trees', which took its inspiration from William Golding's 'The Lord of the Flies'. With 'All Good Children' having its world premiere at this year's Directors' Fortnight in Cannes, it is difficult not to have high expectations.
Following their mother's death, 12-year-old Dara (Gleeson) and his older brother Eoin (Brazil) are left by their father (Firket) at aunt Valerie's (Persain) home in an unnamed part of rural France. With no parental supervision and an easily distracted relative who is more concerned with her farm than her nephews, the boys have no choice but to run amok.
In the forest, the disorientated pair conveniently stumble upon a young English girl, Bella (Jones), and her much younger brother, Theo (Moulton). They become the boys' new companions and a distraction from their unfamiliar surroundings. Dara instantly clings to the beautiful but flirtatious Bella, and in the blink of an eye becomes dangerously infatuated with her.
After a series of peculiar events, Bella's rich parents (Duchene and Wilmot) prevent their precious daughter from having any further communication with her recently acquired friend. Not surprisingly, Dara struggles to accept their decision and goes to extreme lengths to prove the value of their relationship. However, when he discovers that his love and intense feelings for Bella are not reciprocated; things take a violent turn for the worst.
Newcomer Imogen Jones is extremely convincing as the teasing love interest, and often her over-confidence and charm lead you to forget that she is an innocent child. On the other hand, Jack Gleeson ('Batman Begins') conveys a neediness and vulnerability that is only natural for a young boy who has just lost his mother. His piercing blue eyes give the character a mysterious yet intriguing presence.
Compared to the splendid child acting, the adult performances are simplistic and lacklustre to say the least. We fail to receive any history or background information about the boys' aunt and father, which in turn prevents us from truly engaging with the plot. The last scene is, however, sensational and relies on the young cast to power what is an unexpected ending.
Despite the huge potential of 'All Good Children', it is hampered continuously by the long drawn out nature scenes. There are also a few predictable parts to the story, such as when the boys lose their mother's cat. And at times, the random bursts of music are a distraction.
But while 'All Good Children' won't send you to heaven, it is worth seeing.