Before the American Association of Psychiatry officially recognized the diagnosis of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in 1980, war trauma was poorly handled and symptoms sometimes interpreted, sadly, as cowardice or a “lack of character”. During World War I, the proportion of shell-shocked soldiers was such that the army could no longer afford medical treatment, giving rise, fortuitously, to a more psychological approach being developed.
In Emmanuel Courcol’s Cessez-le-feu, an aging mother discovers the turmoil of war’s painful echoes when her three sons, although together in the trenches, are handed different fates. One of them never comes back, despite the efforts of protective brother Georges (Romain Duris), while the third one, Marcel (Grégory Gadebois) remains in a form of shock that leaves him mute. Georges’s way of coping is to get as far away as possible, the Upper Volta territories of West Africa, and lead a completely different life there. But when a tragic accident convinces him to return home, he is touched by his brother’s state, and charmed by the woman who has been teaching him sign language (Céline Salette) in an effort to pull Marcel out of his shell.
Gadebois is incredibly moving as a man whose imposing physique hides a great frailty and who wins the heart of a petite, kind-hearted demoiselle (Julie-Marie Parmentier). And Duris, whose versatility needs no more evidence, finds here an ideal platform to display his abilities. Gifted with a great sense of comic timing (less at use here, for obvious reasons) and a command of his body and tempo, he adapts to the film’s tone and is able to give depth to the character of Georges… all the while remaining his likeable self and inviting the viewer to accompany him, to the next room or the other side of the world.