This is the life story of the French novelist and diplomat Romain Gary. He grew up with his Russian-Jewish mother in Wilno (now Vilnius) in the 1920s, later enlisting in the Free French Forces during World War II. The film opened in France in 2017 with the star casting of Charlotte Gainsbourg and Pierre Niney as mother and son.
“Promise at Dawn” has a distinct focus on Gary’s childhood. Indeed, the whole film has an intense mother-son bond, with his mother Nina’s impossible expectations for her son starting during his childhood. Her constant pressure and nagging – “Don’t forget to work on your novel!”– played a large role in leading Gary to greatness.
This intense story will take you on a ride through the 1920s and 30s, and showing a young Jewish man’s devotion to his mother and the lengths he will go to make her proud and fulfill every promise to her he has ever made. You begin to question many aspects of his relationships, whether they are healthy or stable, even the one that means the world to him.
If you get the opportunity to enjoy this film, you will not regret it, as its storyline will linger in your mind well past its two-hour showing.
Kaylene Ladinsky is the managing publisher and interim editor at the AJT.