I’ve seen quite a bit of genre-bending over the last couple of days, but I was still thrown off-balance by The Fox and the Child (2007) (aka Le renard et l’enfant), which seems to be a bizarre combination of nature documentary and twisted, cross-species rom-com! For those who don’t know, this children’s flick stars Bertille Noël-Bruneau as a rather reckless young girl living in a remote and exquisitely beautiful region of France, who spots a wild fox one day while walking home from school, and vows to tame it and make it “hers”, come what may! There isn’t a lot of dialogue, since the girl’s co-star can’t actually talk back to her, so the majority of the story is narrated by her older self, voiced in the English version by Kate Winslet.
This cute, charming and ridiculously picturesque film works wonderfully as a showcase for French flora and fauna, through various seasons… but it’s a total travesty as a model of safe, sensible behaviour for children and responsible parents. I mean, it’s one thing for a kid to sneak off and play with potentially dangerous wild animals when the grown-ups aren’t watching… but there’s every indication that this girl’s guardians are actively encouraging and enabling her obsession! Even after she goes missing for an entire night (while following “her” fox into a dark and scary cave, across a deep ravine), waking up in some random field, all her parents do is ground her for a week! And then her father teaches her how to identify the fox’s den, so she can shove her face down it and disturb the poor creature and its cubs, instead of just waiting around for it to come out into the open. Gah! Maybe I’m just being over-protective and paranoid, but I’d want to raise my own kids with a little more respect/fear for “nature red in tooth and claw”.
I thought it was safe to assume that nothing too gruesome or Grizzly Man-esque was going to happen to the girl, since it was being shown on a Saturday afternoon on BBC2, but there is a rather disturbing scene near the end where she traps the fox in her bedroom, causing it to panic and jump through her (closed) window, landing in a bloody, broken mess on the courtyard below. If I’d watched that when I was a kid, I’d have been wetting the bed for weeks! That said, I do like the way they used the miraculously healed fox’s subsequent standoffishness to teach viewers (young and old) about the difference between real love and simply wanting to possess something/someone. Shame she couldn’t have learned that lesson without driving an innocent creature to suicide, but never mind.