This is one of Truffaut's minor works and I've just watched it again for the first time in several years. The film consists of a series of episodes in the lives of a group of children from the town of Thiers. There is very little plot, plenty of observation and a few memorable scenes, notably when little Grégory falls from the window of a flat and walks away unscathed (apparently unbelievable, but based on faits divers). Two main child characters emerge, each one representing aspects of Truffaut's own youth, one coming to grips with adolescence and relationships with the opoosite sex, the other a victim of neglect and physical abuse. The primary teacher offers another aspect of François Truffaut, the father figure.
There are a good few classroom scenes, reminiscent of Les 400 Coups and whilst the teachers are more enlightened, what they are teaching seems to have progressed little since the 1950s.
In a way, this was the film that Les 400 Coups was meant to be, before Truffaut decided to concentrate on the Antoine Doinel character. Some regard it as too sentimental and the teacher's (Truffaut's) speech to the class as too preachy on the subject of children's rights, but on this re-viewing I would say that the children are not all seen through rose-tinted spectacles and that perhaps the theme of child abuse is a very contemporary one, not dealt with enough in the cinema. The children act very naturally and Truffaut is able to revisit some of his leitmotifs, for example weak father figures, untouchable women (especially their legs) and children struggling to become adults.
If the movie is lightweight, then, if anything, it is because the violence done to the neglected boy is not shown overtly and therefore fails to shock enough. Truffaut said that he felt like a grandfather making this film, whereas in L'Enfant Sauvage he was like a father.
This is an affectionate, quite compelling film, representing a marked contrast from his previous Histoire d'Adèle H.