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France, 1940. In the first days of occupation, beautiful Lucile Angellier (Michelle Williams is trapped in a stifled existence with her controlling mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas) as they both await news of her husband: a prisoner of war. Parisian refugees start to pour into their small town, soon followed by a regiment of German soldiers who take up residence in the villagers' own homes. Lucile initially tries to ignore Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts), the handsome and refined German officer staying with them. But soon, a powerful love draws them together and leads them into the tragedy of war. Written by
In one of the last scenes where Michelle Williams is driving away, the camera pans out to a landscape shot. The adjacent wheat field clearly shows tracks of a sprayer used to dessicate the wheat - there was no such thing in 1940. See more »
I was nearly put off going to see this after reading a few sneering reviews, which in retrospect appear to have been more an attempt by the critic to show off about their having read the novel than having actually anything to do with what's on screen.
Yes, the narration is a little heavy handed at times but ultimately necessary and the incongruous "When it comes to war you really find out what people are really like" early on felt like it was being trowelled out so we didn't miss it. Sure, it's not perfect but these are minor niggles not major flaws.
Thankfully, it isn't a boy invades village; girl falls in love; boy isn't as beastly as first thought kind of story. Life's more complicated than that. Where the film excels is that what you think of a character changes as the film progresses. There is no good German. There is no black and white collaboration. There are just people confronted with circumstances and how they react to them.
Michelle Williams brilliantly underplays her role which counteracts the clumsiness of the script in places, Matthias Schoenaerts is superb as the sensitive and conflicted man of war and the supporting cast excellent.
It's a little gem.
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