Les Combattants Review

Image for Les Combattants

When a young carpenter (Azaïs) meets a tough-yet-pretty survivalist (Haenel), a tentative romance blooms against the unlikely backdrop of a French paratrooper training course.


A chance meeting at a self-defence class puts Arnaud (Azaïs) toe to toe with Madeleine (Haenel), a feisty tomboy whose hard-as-nails exterior seems to conceal a heart of stone. Easygoing Arnaud is smitten, and when Madeleine signs up for a paratrooper training camp, he enlists along with her, and a tentative romance begins.

Cailley’s feature debut is nicely scripted, shot and played (it won several César awards, including Best Actress for Haenel, and Best First Film), and a great deal better than the toe-curling UK title suggests (the French title was Fighters), but because it’s written, directed and performed with the same spirit of laissez-faire with which Arnaud carries himself, it sometimes feels so slight that the lightest breeze could blow it away.

A sensitive, slight French romance that marks a promising debut from French filmmaker Cailley.