The Day of the Crows (2012) is a French–Belgian–Canadian animation directed by Jean-Christophe Dessaint. The Day of the Crows is suitable for secondary students in Years 7–8. The film can be used as a resource in the domains of English, The Arts (Media Studies and Visual Arts), Languages (French) and Physical, Personal and Social Learning (Interpersonal Development).
Adapted from the novel Le Jour des Corneilles by Jean-François Beauchemin, The Day of the Crows follows the isolated existence of a father and son, the only human inhabitants of a dense forest. The boy both fears and admires his father, who is still grieving the loss of the boy's mother, who died giving birth to the child. The boy's only companions are the benevolent spirits of the dead who haunt the forest.
When the father takes a near-fatal fall, his son ventures outside their forest home to seek help. This is the boy's first trip to the civilised world. His father had always told him that he would disappear if he set foot beyond the boundary of the forest.
Dragging his father behind him, the boy makes his way to a nearby village. A military enlistment rally is taking place and every resident of the village is there to watch. When the boy and his father are noticed, the villagers express their disapproval of the boy's unkempt appearance and anger at the very sight of his father. It seems that many of the villagers remember his father and none too fondly. The boy takes flight.
At the village hospital, crowded with injured soldiers, the son meets a kind doctor. The doctor does not let vindictive gossip get in the way of his treating a patient and fends off angry villagers led by the vengeful Mrs Bramble. He ministers to the father and places the boy in the care of his daughter Manon.
It is Manon's task to teach the boy about the ways of a civilised world and protect him from the likes of Mrs Bramble. The two are soon firm friends. When the boy admits to Manon that he is uncertain about his father's love for him, she reassures him that this could not be the case.
When the boy's father wakes from surgery, he is angry to find himself in the village. Determined to leave as soon as possible, the boy's father becomes a difficult patient. Manon is fearful of him and his harsh ways. She worries for her new friend and decides that the boy is right about his father's inability to love.
Father and son return to the forest. Life returns to its normal routines but the boy has changed. He cannot forget Manon and all that she has taught him. The boy begins his search in earnest for his father's love, looking in all the predictable but wrong places. His search ends when he finds his mother's burial place. The spirit of his mother appears to him and, for the first time, she tells him the story of his birth and why his father did not take the boy's mother to the village hospital.
The boy's father is angry when he finds his son at his mother's grave and then confused when the boy explains that he has spoken to the spirit of his mother. The father insists that the boy let him see her and they spend forever trudging through deep snow in search of the spirit.
Exhaustion and disappointment set in and the father collapses. The boy calls on Manon's help and, guided by a friendly cow, she finds her way to the shelter in the forest. Delirious with pain, the boy's father initially thinks Manon is his wife, but when he realises that his son has enlisted the help of the village yet again he is outraged. He stumbles through the shelter, starting a fire, only to suddenly come to his senses. He tells the children to run but it is too late for him to escape.
Safe but saddened by his father's fate, the boy is comforted by his mother's spirit. It is time for her to leave and join his father. They will return but for now the boy must find his own way, not alone