Simply a masterpiece of direction and screen writing. The relationship between Bonnet and Quentin is understated and underplayed, like much of the film, but therein lies its power. The viewer doesn't realise the investment in character until the end, when in a climatic surge of repressed emotion, we feel the pain and awful truth of it all. The acting, from the boys to the monks, are so believable, it actually hurts.
Absolutely the most tender, understated coming of age story that exists. Malle explores the nostalgia for childhood and the illusions of adulthood from the respectively opposite points of view. The young Manesse and Fejtő give two profound performances, rooting the film in a really deeply emotional place- it's hard not walk away from this one heartbroken.
This should be shown in every class room out there, and it should be discussed afterwards. The subtlety and lack of useless sentimentality impressed me, and of course the haunting ending lingers on. However, overall I failed to connect to this. Important film, but for some reason the starkness also kept me distant.