Credit: <i>A Childhood</i>

Familiar but affecting, this naturalistic French drama by writer-director Philippe Claudel (I’ve Loved You So Long) follows a 13-year-old boy living in a small town with his drug-addicted mother and her boyfriend, a petty criminal. It sticks mainly to the boy’s point of view, presenting both major and minor events in the same curious yet detached style. One empathizes quickly with the young hero, who’s clearly intelligent and creative but lacks the proper guidance to make the most of his better qualities. There are some positive role models on display—an enthusiastic schoolteacher and a children’s tennis instructor played by Claudel—yet sadly they hover at the periphery of the film, unable to make a real impact on the protagonist. The radiant cinematography is by Denis Lenoir, a longtime collaborator of Olivier Assayas. In French with subtitles.