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The Fox movie review & film summary (2024)

The film begins in 1927 as young Franz (Maximilian Reinwald) is living with his large and impoverished family in a remote area in the mountains of Austria. Unable to provide for everyone, his parents give him away to a rich farmer, who does educate him but also employs him as a farmhand for the next 10 years, a move that leaves him with an inability to trust or connect with others. After he is released from his duties in 1937 (and now played by Simon Morze), he ends up enlisting in the military, more for the job security than due to any thoughts about the gathering clouds of war. Three years pass and with World War II in its early days, Franz, serving as a motorcycle courier, and his unit are preparing to head into France when, following a humiliation at the hands of some of his fellow soldiers, he petulantly runs out into the woods and comes across a wounded baby fox near the body of its dead mother.

A connection is immediately formed between the two outcasts and Franz sneaks the cub onto the base to have its injury treated. When it comes time to ship out, he cannot bear to leave the animal behind and takes it along with him, hiding it in the sidecar of his motorcycle. As Franz goes about his duties, the bond that he establishes with the fox seems to have awakened the desire for a connection with others that he has long denied himself. He begins to write a letter to the father who gave him away, though he is not quite to the point of being ready to send it off. Later, while in occupied France, he finds himself spending time with a local woman (Adriane Gradziel), who remains a good sport about things even after it becomes evident that he is more interested in his fox companion than in her. Of course, real life intrudes on the bliss existence between Franz and the animal he dubs Foxy and before he is sent off to the somewhat less bucolic Russian front, he has to come to terms with the fact that he and his friend will finally have to separate.

“The Fox” is a film that serves as a confrontation of the horrors of war, a look at an emotionally reticent man struggling to come to terms with unimaginable past hurts and make his first real attempts to engage with the world and a look at the bond that instantly develops between a human and an animal when their paths cross unexpectedly. To make these seemingly disparate elements work together in a narrative that is both plausible and emotionally moving requires an extremely deft directorial touch—anything less and you run the risk of making a film that feels more like a laundry list of elements cynically thrown together in the hope of jerking tears from the audience in a particularly ham-fisted manner. Although a number of the advanced reviews that I looked up after watching it suggested that it managed to succeed at this with a number of viewers, I have to admit that the entire enterprise left me largely unmoved when all was said and done.

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