Promise at Dawn (La promesse de l’aube) Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Pros: film adaptation of the novel with new artistic twists; playing by Charlotte Gainsbourg; both light and dramatic nature of the film Cons: the film lasts more than two hours (but they are worth it) “The Promise at Dawn” / La promesse de l’aube

Drama genre
Directed by Eric Barbier
Cast: Pierre Ninet (Roman Katsev/Romain Gary), Pavel Pushalsky (Roman as a child), Nemo Schiffman (Roman as a youth), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Nina Katsev), Didier Bourdon (Alex Gubernatis), Jean-Pierre Darroussin (Zaremba), Catherine McCormack (Leslie Blanche), Finnegan Oldfield (Captain Langer), etc.
Companies Jerico, Pathé, Nexus Factory
Year of release 2017 (in Ukraine 2019)
IMDB page

The drama “Dawn Promise” was released in 2017. Then she was nominated for the French national film award “Cesar” in four categories. Almost two years have passed, and the film was released in Ukrainian without losing its relevance. And this is very good, because it would be quite a shame to lose sight of the film.

The film is dedicated to the French writer of Jewish origin Romain Gary. He was a very extraordinary person who also tried himself as a military man, diplomat and film director. In 1960, he wrote an autobiographical novel, A Promise at Dawn, in which he spoke about the influence of parental love. This work became the main film, the film adaptation of which was undertaken by modern director Eric Barbier.

The film “Promise at Dawn” shows Romain Gary, exhausted by everyday life. He recalls his childhood, youth and a more conscious period.


All his life, Romain was obsessed with the desire to fulfill the will of his mother Nina, who prophesied a great future for him. She, being an unknown actress, placed her ambitions on her son’s shoulders. Nina showed resourcefulness and quickly adapted to situations, trying to make her son a worthy member of society. When Romain grew up, his mother looked forward to his success in all possible fields. But women, the pangs of creativity and war appeared in his life. This interfered with the lightning-fast execution of the mother’s plans.


“Promise at Dawn” changes the pace and character of the story over the course of two hours. The film enchants, saddens, makes you laugh and immerses you in emotions. All this happens extremely harmoniously, reflecting the maturation and desires of the main character.

Thanks to the atypical nature of the film for a drama, it becomes unpredictable and intriguing at every plot turn. The personality of Romain Gary in the film is interesting even if you know the details of his biography.


The writer in the film is played equally well by three different actors – Pavel Pushalsky (Romain as a child), Nemo Schiffman (Romain as a youth) and Pierre Ninet (adult Romain). The latter appears on screen more often than others, portraying the hero in the most important periods of his life. Pierre Ninet (known for the films “Yves Saint Laurent” and “Franz”) looks decent on the screen even when the writer’s character becomes much older than the actor himself.


The film is most striking in the character of Nina, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg (“Antichrist”, “Nymphomaniac”). In her performance, Romain Gary’s mother is not as clear as it might seem at first glance. She can be touching and at the same time obsessed, incredibly smart and blind in her aspirations. Nina’s feelings are not explained by the voiceover, but Gainsbourg conveys the firmness of his character extremely accurately. Just as he finds human weakness in him. This is probably one of Charlotte’s best acting works.


Promise at Dawn is an absolutely wonderful French movie. It opens up space to think about how showing a mother’s love can impact an adult’s life. The film will be etched in memory without leaving behind an unpleasant tragic imprint.


The film will appeal to fans of French cinema and those who appreciate biographical adaptations

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