1915. Life at the Paridier farm has changed dramatically since the men of the family (Constant, Georges and Clovis) left home to go and fight on the front line. Hortense Sandrail, Henri and Constant's mother and Clovis' mother-in-law, has taken over courageously but, although helped by her daughter Solange, she finds it hard to get by with all the workload. When harvest time comes, she makes up her mind to hire a farmhand but she is too late and no man is available. The mayor then recommends her an orphan named Francine Riant, who could do. Hortense agrees and the choice soon appears a blessing, as the girl proves perfect: well-mannered and respectful, she is also a hard worker who does not balk at any task. Hortense, Solange and her form an effective trio, who make the most of the situation. One day, Georges comes back to the farm on leave and he falls in love with Francine.Written by
Roles for women in First World War films are usually restricted to lovers left behind, grieving mothers or romantic trysts. Here the camera lingers on different female characters who fought a different kind of war.
Hortense and her daughter Solange are running a farm in the absence of male relatives. Desperate for a farmhand, Hortense reluctantly hires an orphan, Francine, who turns out to be perfect for the job. Amiable, responsible and a hard worker, everyone loves her. But they love her too much, for jealousy raises its ugly head. The family, out of fear that she might not love them as much as they love her, drives Francine away. Francine initially takes it in stride, as she habitually does, singing, writing, working, not giving up on love, and happy despite adversity. It is then that Francine discovers she is pregnant which could lead her back to the family farm, deeper in misfortune, or something beyond both.
The Guardians is a unique, unexpected and fascinating take on World War I. The feeling of just how good it is builds and near the ending it hit me like a sudden and strong wind. I loved watching and listening to Francine sing so happily, despite her pain. It gives meaning to Shakespeare's words; "when we for recompense have praised the vile, it stains the glory in that happy verse which aptly sings the good." The Guardians includes fantastic cinematography, wonderful wardrobes and stellar performances, especially by the leads. The front line of the war and the tragic sacrifice of soldiers there, looms in the background as one of the sub themes. Recently available on Netflix.
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