Who doesn't know them from movies: Annoying kids that never shut up or this little brats in horror films were everybody knows from the first minute that they're gonna survive anyway. Even nowadays children in movies are often mere stereotypes. Jacque Feyders „Faces of Children“ proved that it doesn't necessarily have to be this way – and that was more than 80 years ago. Unlike many other directors after him, Feyder took the children in his movie seriously and gave them a real personality everyone can understand and relate to.
It all starts with a death. The wife of the mayor of a little village in the Swiss Alps died, leaving behind her husband and two children, the ten year old Jean and his five year old sister Pierrette. While the latter one is still too young to understand what's going on, Jean has to face the loss of his beloved mother, a fact he can't neither accept nor realize completely. The different reaction of the two children and the different understanding they have of death is shown brilliantly by Feyder in the opening. While Jean sees his mother's casket brought out of the house and follows it to the village's cemetery, we also see the innocent little Pierette playing with her cat and enjoying her life, as she's not aware of what's going on around her.
After the funeral the month slowly pass by and while in the beginning father and son regularly go to the cemetery each Sunday the father after a while stops doing so and it seems for the little boy as if he was the only one who's still mourning for the loss they all have suffered. The father isn't much of a help for him as he tries to deal with his wife's death by himself and starts to look for a new woman in his life how can replace his late wife and take care of his children. When the father finds this person in a woman called Jeanne things don't automatically get better, at least not for Jean. The boy isn't willing to accept the „intruder“ in his family who wants to replace his mother. To make things worth for him his step-mother also brings her little daughter into the family, Arlette, who is about the same age as Jean. The boy starts to hate his new step-sister and shows her that at least for him she's not welcome in the family.
The acting and directing are great. Especially Jean Forest as Jean is perfect for the role but also Arlette Peyran is very convincing as his new step-sister. The emotions and problems the characters have feel real and are understandable. You believe Jean that he's mourning for his mother and can also understand how and why the hate towards his step-mother and step-sister grows. But you never forget that they are still kids, as they are childish or do stupid things occasionally. Feyder also uses the Alps as a beautiful background for his movie and made one of the first scenes in cinema history that were actually shot at night (instead of shooting in the day and just tinting the film afterwards to let it look like it was shot in the night). But besides all that he always keeps the focus on what was most important for him in this movie – the characters.