An old-fashioned hospital in the middle of nowhere; vigilant staff on automatic pilot; sick, delightfully naughty children; rules dictating every move… We’ve landed in another world but one that’s very real. Ten-year-old Oscar opens the door to us, and he is captivating. From the opening scene, his simplicity is disarming. A cancer victim, he shows incredible maturity for a child of his age, and adult observations fall from his lips. Amir Ben Abdelmoumen plays this extraordinary young man as convincingly as though he has melded into his character. Michèle Laroque’s Rose demonstrates the full range of the actor’s abilities; she amply conveys all her character’s quirks and foibles and makes them her own. A tangible bond is forged between her and Amir: the pair is on the same wavelength. Together, they build a fortress. Impossible not to be won over by both the story and the film’s emotional force.
It was a stroke of genius for Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt to adapt his book for the screen: the author has finished what he began. Not content with turning his original novella into a film, he has added new elements and developed others to give them extra depth. Thus, Rose, about whose private life we know next to nothing, is brought to the fore. The author plunges us into the world of this super-woman, making her thoroughly down-to-earth, showing us her daily routine and her weaknesses, and emphasising the implications of taking Oscar under her wing. For, the care of a sick child is no easy matter. Yet, Rose succeeds with surprising aplomb. Maybe she knows how to stay true to herself in every situation, daring to talk openly about painful subjects like disease and death. It was also a stroke of genius for Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt to film two different worlds, Rose’s world and Oscar’s world, through the eyes of a child without disassociating them, proving that they can come together and that anyone can retain simplicity and core strength. This is principally demonstrable in the film’s visual effects and the simple, dream-like images. Magic is everywhere, underscored by Michel Legrand’s music. It’s bewitching and absorbing and you struggle to return to reality when the credits go up.
Oscar and the Lady in Pink is a real gem made of love and hope. Far from spreading alarm, the film is reassuring and offers an alternative approach to the subject of fatally sick children.
From book to stage and from stage to screen, Schmitt’s philosophical tale has lost none of its sparkle. And that’s despite the fact that the author himself thought it would never make a film because the book consisted of a boy’s private correspondence with God. So, he undertook a major overhaul of the original text and developed the character of Auntie Rose, specially written for Michèle Laroque.
Opposite her, Amir plays Oscar with astonishing maturity, alternately mischievous and despairing but never affected. The film is a meditation on the denial of death in our civilisation and our fear of the unknown. Frequent abrupt changes of tone are noticeably better handled than in Odette Toulemonde, Schmitt’s first full-length film. Some scenes are pure slapstick, such as Auntie Rose’s fictional past as a wrestler, which she invents to distract the little boy. “Depth, yes; po-faced, no!” might have been Schmitt’s motto.
(…) Every minute of the film is magical but is also the opportunity to acknowledge a tragic fate poignantly fictionalised and directed…