A Very Long Engagement (2004) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Tells the story of a young woman's relentless search for her fiancé, who has disappeared from the trenches of the Somme during World War One.

  • Five desperate French soldiers during The Battle of the Somme shoot themselves, either by accident or with purpose, in order to be invalided back home. Having been "caught" a court-martial convenes and determines punishment to be banishment to No Man's Land with the objective of having the Germans finish them off. In the process of telling this tale each man's life is briefly explored along with their next of kin as Methilde, fiancée to one of the men, tries to determine the circumstances of her lover's death. This task is not made any easier for her due to a bout with polio as a child. Along the way she discovers the heights and depths of the human soul.

  • On January 6, 1917, five condemned soldiers were escorted to Bouchavesnes, at the Front in the Somme. Facing court-martial, for attempting to inflict self-mutilation and escape the horrors of the trenches during World War I, instead, the five men find themselves abandoned in the battle-scarred fields of no man's land, to meet their end by the hands of the Germans. In June 1920, even though the war is over, polio-stricken Mathilde is still seeking closure, haunted by troubling, unanswered questions regarding the fate of her beloved fiancé, Manech. Now, driven by female intuition, instinctual impulse, and blind hope, Mathilde embarks on a relentless quest for answers, in the name of love. What awaits at the end of this snail-paced investigation? Will Mathilde and Manech manage to fulfil their very long engagement?

  • Five desperate men shoot themselves in order to be relieved from the horrifying frontline at the Somme, in WWI. A court-martial decides to punish them by leaving them alone in no-man's land, to be killed in the crossfire. Then all hell breaks loose and they all die. Or not? One of these men's fiancée, a young girl who can't walk since age 3, receives information that makes her suspect his boyfriend might have gotten away alive. So she embarks in a painful, long and often frustrating ordeal to find out the truth.

  • The film is set in France near the end of World War I in the deadly trenches of the Somme, in the gilded Parisian halls of power, and in the modest home of an indomitable provincial girl. It tells the story of this young woman's relentless, moving and sometimes comic search for her fiancé, who has disappeared. He is one of five French soldiers believed to have been court-martialed under mysterious circumstances and pushed out of an allied trench into an almost-certain death in no-man's land. What follows is an investigation into the arbitrary nature of secrecy, the absurdity of war, and the enduring passion, intuition and tenacity of the human heart.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • As World War I draws to an end, a young French woman's greatest fight is about to begin. Mathilde has received word that her fiancé Manech is one of five wounded soldiers who have been court-martialed and pushed out into the no-man's land between the French and German armies... an almost certain death.

    Unwilling to accept that her beloved Manech is lost to her forever, Mathilde embarks on a extraordinary journey to discover the fate of her lover. At each turn, she receives a different heartbreaking variation on how Manech must have spent those last days, those last moments. Still, she never gets discouraged.

    If Manech were dead, Mathilde would know.

    With a steadfast faith, strengthened by hope and a stubbornly cheerful disposition, Mathilde follows her investigation to its conclusion, convincing those who might help her and ignoring those who will not. As she draws closer to the truth about the five unfortunate soldiers and their brutal punishment, she is drawn deeper into the horrors of war and the indelible marks it leaves on those whose lives it has touched.

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