"Un Bon Petit Diable" (A Good Little Devil) stars Paul Courtois as the effervescent Charles, a boy growing up in the mid 1800s in France. His life is anything but pleasant. Hunger, beatings, ridicule, and endless work are the norm. Charles, like most children, is able to weather the storm of life, and is always able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
His parents have died and he has gone to live with his elderly cousin. The old matron seems to have a hatred not only for children, but for Charles in particular. Every little infraction is met with either a beating or a stay in the cellar. On one particular night, after he has angered the old woman, she grabs him by the collar and drags him outside where she makes him spend the night in the pigsty. Charles' one ray of hope at home is the similarly abused maid, Betty.
The two hatch a plan to get the vulnerable Charles out of the clutches of his evil aunt. Fortunately, for the two, the elder cousin is extremely superstitious, which makes their plans easier to fulfill. Since Charles seems to always get spanked on his bare bum, Betty decides that would be the best place to put the devil's marks on him. So using a concoction of walnut oil, spider webs, and duck droppings she makes an oily black substance with which she places two black hand prints on his bottom. When his cousin goes to spank him again, the black hand prints are a sure sign that the devil has afflicted her younger cousin, and thus he must go.
She sens him, along with Betty, off to a boarding school where he will learn to behave and be out of her hair. It turns out that the school isn't much more than a prison, and even here Charles is subjected to repeated spankings. Charles has his trusted Betty with him, and they have proven again and again that they can get through anything.
Although this is a light-hearted comedy that tackles a touchy subject, it in no way makes light of child abuse. It does, rather, focus on a child's resilience and ingenuity in times of strife. There are a couple of subplots that seem to be nothing more than filler, but otherwise this is a great coming-of-age film that is a fun one to watch.
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