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Parents' Guide to

Murmur of the Heart

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 18+

Classic French coming-of-age film has nudity, incest.

Movie R 1971 118 minutes
Murmur of the Heart Poster Image

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MURMUR OF THE HEART manages to be countercultural without being heavy-handed (unique especially for a film coming out in the early 1970s). It's also existential without being particularly bleak, and humorous in spite of scenes that still shock decades after its release. His head packed with jazz, literature, and street smarts, Laurent seems to accept and shrug off what protagonists in other coming-of-age films would find traumatic. The hypocrisies of the Catholic Church, the bourgeois conventions of his father and his friends, the French losing in Vietnam, and even in a more direct way the prankish abuses of his older brothers -- none of these trouble Laurent all that much. In fact, the only thing he does seem troubled by is his mother's affair, which sets up and heightens the doting relationship he shares with her throughout the film.

This attitude, while not making the film necessarily lighthearted, does give it an incredible contrast to most coming-of-age stories, in which angst and mawkish melodrama tend to rule the roost. In spite of differences of culture and era, there's a universality to Laurent as he learns and tries pursuing what many adolescent boys want. Sex. Fun. Music. Adulthood without getting old. This is what makes Murmur of the Heart so special, placing it up there with foreign films like Fellini's Amarcord and Truffaut's 400 Blows as the best, most timeless of coming-of-age stories.

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