Promise at Dawn, written and directed by Eric Barbier
This film is a memorable achievement, in large part because of the contribution of Charlotte Gainsbourg, the rest of the cast and the poignant story.
The Anglo – French actress is the daughter of another actress, Jane Birkin and the songwriter and singer Serge Gainsbourg- an excellent film about his agitated, exuberant life was made recently and it was a great achievement.
Charlotte Gainsbourg has taken part- a leading part for that matter- in controversial, provocative features like Antichrist, Nymphomaniac I and II.
Promise at Dawn is different, one could say a classic narrative of chagrin, suffering, destitution, pain, discrimination and hardship suffered during World War II, starting in Poland, continuing in France and eventually taking the only French writer to have won the prestigious Goncourt Prize twice to England.
Romain Gary was born Roman Kacew in Poland, where his mother has always believed in his future glory, even when they lived in near destitution and when she shouted in front of discriminating, racist neighbors that her son would become a glorious writer, a celebrity, a personality, the stupid laughed.
Being Jewish meant that the Kacew family, mother Nina would be the target of insults, targeted by raids and, as we all know, in danger of being exterminated with the other millions of Jewish people who have died in the Nazi death camps.
For some time, Nina Kacew has been trying to work at her business, a tailor shop where she has had women working for her, making clothes that were very appreciated, but alas, not paid for.
There is an especially loathsome woman who comes a t the shop, makes a serious order and the manager points out that this is very important and perhaps the lady would want to pay, only to attract the wrath of the pretentious, dishonest customer who just wanted work and clothes gratis.
Later on, when the poor Ms. Kacew is facing bankruptcy, she is knocking at the door of this fancy, ruthless “client” who starts shouting at her and insults the Jewish woman with disgusting appellatives, asking her butler to throw the tailor out.
Nina Kacew and her son, Roman, arrive in France, with some luggage in which they have all the possessions left for them in the world, which the clever, astute, perseverant, dedicated, strong, gritty, admirable, Wonder Woman is trying to sell in antique shop with great skill.
She claims to be a Russian princess and the samovar that she displays is both precious because of the make, material, but also on account of its historical importance, convincing the owner of the antique store to form a partnership with this foreign lady.
He does not buy the objects, but he says that he will provide other fare, more interesting for clientele at the hotels, where Nina Kacew would pose as the aristocrat from Russia and use the abilities already displayed in front of her new business partner, who is willing to advance some cash.
It is not all wine and roses, for there are racists here as well as elsewhere in the world, but the venture is successful, furthermore, Ms. Kacew enters another business venture with the only taxi driver that had accepted to take the family when they arrived at the station and other drivers refused the fare.
Granted, even this one did not like the prospect of taking so much luggage in his old car, but the determined Nina Kacew emphasized that his car is not exactly the best vehicle in the world:
- Have you looked at your car? Let us move on!
The confidence and trust she has in her son are outstanding- indeed every woman loves and encourages her children- or as we have it around here – every crow will defend its chicks- but the heroine of this film is exceptional and nudges, urges her son with every step he takes.
Roman Kacew experiences trauma and adversity, sometimes in hilarious circumstances, like the time when some Polish combatants challenge him to a duel, in the middle of enemy attacks.
Roman –soon to become Romain- is fighting as a pilot in the British Air Force, facing the German enemy, in fierce battles, with anti-aircraft firing all around, considerable casualties and some miraculous escapes.
One such moment makes a hero of the pilot- who had been initially the only one to be refused an assignment and a rank at the end of training because…he is Jewish- that helps a comrade escape.
During one vicious round of German fire, one of the other pilots is hit, not only is his plane in serious condition, but the man is blinded by the bullets or shrapnel that had entered the cockpit.
Roman Kacew aka Romain Gary helps his comrade in arms to land his plane in impossible circumstances, as practically a blind man, relying on instructions from his savior, to the left, now approach, more to the right…
Roman keeps receiving letters from his incredible mother, comforting, encouraging, supporting, and praising him…long after she has died…