It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The first shot in "Declaration of War" shows a mother with her 8-year-old son. That provides a piece of information that will help us through the rest of the movie. This is the story of how a French couple learn that their toddler has a dangerous tumor pressing upon his brain stem and requires risky surgery. For the next several years, that fact will define the whole of their lives.
Nothing has prepared them for this. When their eyes meet across a nightclub floor, and they begin walking toward each other, love seems to be their destiny. Her name is Juliette (Valerie Donzelli). His name is, inevitably, Romeo (Jeremie Elkaim). Like a lot of first-time parents, most of what they know about raising babies comes through on-the-job training. Can it be normal that little Adam keeps them awake night after night with his crying? Wants to eat all the time? Urps after every meal? Hasn't taken his first step at 18 months?
Parenting comes to dominate their lives, especially after a pediatrician notices the boy has a wandering eye and an asymmetrical face. The doctor gives him a CT scan and an MRI exam, and discovers the tumor. They go into panic mode. Of course Adam must have the best surgeon! It's an injustice that a child of theirs should be subjected to such a tragedy! Their ordinary lives are put on hold.
But the sharpness of the original emergency becomes worn down by week after week and month after month of care. Their lives are so devoted to their son that eventually they lose their jobs, sell their apartment and move into quarters for parents at the hospital. Luckily the quarters, the surgery and the boy's long hospital stay are paid for by France's universal health care; this might have been a shorter story if it had been set in the United States.