Although the circumstances are different, in watching the absorbing and moving “Come What May,” directed by Christian Carion, one can be reminded of the struggles of today’s refugees from war as the new film dramatizes the refugees fleeing across France in 1940 from the onslaught of the German invaders. Carion focuses on individuals caught in the tragic larger picture, and through them we feel the broader life and death struggle taking place.
The characters in “Come What May, which director Carion wrote in collaboration with Laure Irrmann and Andrew Bampfield, do not realize at the outset that France will capitulate quickly to the superior German force. They are full of hope as they flee to what they expect will be a safe area in northern France.
August Diehl plays Hans, a German who has resisted the Nazis, and with his young son, Max, impressively played by Joshio Marlon, they flee from Germany. When Hans is temporarily arrested in France on an identity issue, Max is separated from his father.
Another key character is Percy (Matthew Rhys), a Scottish captain who wants to join up with the British retreating forces after all the men in his group have been killed. Hans and Percy meet and cooperate in their attempt to evade the invaders, while Hans searches for Max.
There is also Olivier Gourmet as Paul, the mayor of a small town, who undertakes leading his townspeople on a trek to a safer area. In that group is Alice Isaaz as Suzanne, a sympathetic school teacher. Max, who desperately wants his father, is lucky when Suzanne takes him under her care.
The film flits between the various characters and situations, setting up the potential for an emotional climax after we follow the plot strands.
The most harrowing scenes occur when German planes mercilessly swoop down and shoot at the lines of walking refugees, who scurry for cover as many are killed. Such brutality can make one think specifically about slaughter in our own era. Director Carion stages the attacks with blistering reality.
The film is somewhat marred ultimately by too pat, coincidental resolutions, even if there is emotional satisfaction gained. Credibility gets somewhat strained, but on balance, one can find solace in that amid the carnage and desperate human struggle against the odds, we find fresh hope for some at the end of the ordeal depicted in this one specific area of what occurred in those dark days of 1940. A Cohen Media Group release. Reviewed September 5, 2016.