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Mother secures family farm in WW I but not without selfish ruin.
maurice_yacowar25 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The title is inadequately translated. The English "Guardians" is gender neutral. The French "Guardiennes" is explicitly feminine. That's the point. This film, a noble return to the classic French narrative style, exalts the role women played during WW I, not just running the family farm but in preserving the family unit, the larger social structure and civilized values. As the first two shots explain, the men are off dead and dying on the battlefield. Meanwhile, back on the farm, it's the matriarch Hortense pushing the plow behind the overworked mare. The rural beauty of France stands in implicit contrast to the violent destruction wreaked in the war. While the school kids learn a poem about the inhumanity of the Bosch (translation: Krauts), a returning soldier shares his contrary wisdom: the enemy German soldiers were just like their enemy French, simple ordinary folk thrown into a conflict neither of their making nor of their will or understanding. But the deaths and dread and nightmares roll on. The film's noblest soldier is Francine, the orphan girl Hortense hires to help in the harvest but who works her way into a permanent position with the family. That is, until their son Georges and she fall in love, threatening Hortense's control. For being a responsible, even heroic guardian is not enough. What's crucial is the values being guarded. Despite her affection and respect for Francine, Hortense lies about her virtue to dissuade son Georges from marrying her. She comes from nobody, she explains, with whoredom in her blood. Later Hortense refuses to tell Georges Francine is carrying his child. Thus Hortense meets what she sees her responsibility to maintain the family honour - letting Francine carry the guilt that daughter Solange has provoked - and to consign George to marry his drab childhood friend Marguerite. At this point the film's domestic point unfolds into the larger theme of French values, even European, indeed the entire Western Civilization that both World Wars ostensibly defended. Killing and dying for one's values may be a fine value - but that depends on the values. And whether the values defended in war are sustained in peacetime. The heroes' martial valour is undercut by Hortense's inhumanity both to her son and to his lover. She betrays her dutiful servant out of class snobbery, an exalted vanity and her need to keep control over her family. When she glimpses her unacknowledged grandchild, Hortense briefly realizes the horrible costs of her misdeed, even to herself. But she makes no amends. It's too late or her strength has left her too weak to undo the damage she did the son she thought she was protecting and the woman who served her so faithfully.. There's a sting in the tail at the end of the narrative. The eldest son back from the war, the farm thriving and modernized thanks to the women's initiative, the men fall to arguing over the division of the estate. The war briefly unified the men that can't live in peace at home. The only harmony and cheer are provided by the triumphant and resourceful Francine. Raising her child on her own, she's now also a locally successful singer, still brightening her world. Poor Georges in the audience is still enchanted by her and will never know his loss. He returned wounded from the war but emotionally crippled by his mother's betrayal. He won the continental war but lost the domestic battle.
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One of the most beautiful films in cinema and a best of the year.
jdesando30 May 2018
"Two years of hell, some people went mad." "After the war, it will be different." Constant (Nicolas Girard)

The WWI soldier, Constant, in director Xavier Beauvois' The Guardians, captures the ambivalence of the "the war to end all wars": combat insanity that comes home with soldiers and the hopeless hope the world will be a better place. The only "better" is the film's depiction of strong women taking the reins of a farm, modernizing it and making a profit.

It's a small village whose story begins in 1915 and ends in 1920 in rural France, just long enough for women to take prominent places in the farms at home and for their returning men to find adjustment a challenge as they carry the memories of unspeakable horrors in the trenches of that "great war."

Hortense (Nathalie Bye), an aging owner of a working farm, rides the plow while she attends to the politics of the large farm without the crutch of a domineering male. She does well enough to engage the services of a young maid, Francine (Iris Bry), who is a change agent for Hortense and her soldier son and a signal of the complications war brings to the world.

The cinematography is a perfect reflection of the tranquil country side lost in a trance of bucolic tasks until the war's change agents arrive. Leave it to French cinema to languish over faces and landscapes, as if Manet or Constable were the artistic director. The slowly panning shots of laborers are as softly powerful as paintings in the camera's movement.

The Guardians is one of the most beautifully photographed and quietly told stories of women abiding the tyranny of war with an aplomb unseen in modern cinema. This minimalist epic is one of the year's best films and an appropriate emblem of the French ability to make cinema art. All other cinema pales by comparison.
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Beautiful, subtle film about women's day to day during First World War
jabberwhack25 August 2018
Xavier Beauvois just does the most beautiful films. As with Of Gods and Men, The Guardians is full of quiet dignity and humanity, and it gets the emotions just right. There are so many films about the battlefront, it's great to see one focussed on the scene back home and on women's work, their hopes, their endurance, their grief, and even their betrayals. The pace is slow, and follows the events of the narrative as much as the seasons and the labour they entail. Beauvois is someone who takes the time to show people who are not often seen on screen go about their everyday life, their toil. When do we get to see women shovelling dirt, feeding fodder to cattle, or doing the harvest? It's sometimes hard to believe this takes place between 1916-20 and the contrast with our post-post-modern world is all the more valuable. We're lucky that a director of such talent chooses topics like this for his work.
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A work of compelling emotional force
howard.schumann9 July 2018
In his film "Of Gods and Men," director Xavier Beauvois tells the story of seven Roman Catholic French Trappist monks kidnapped by radical Islamists from their monastery in a village in Algeria during the Algerian Civil War, and the sacrifices that people of good will in both religions were willing to make. Sacrifice is also a theme of Beauvois latest film, The Guardians, his first film shot in digital. It is a superbly realized and emotionally engaging film that dramatizes the strength and courage of the women left behind during World War I when all able-bodied men were fighting in the trenches. A quiet, contemplative film, it is beautifully photographed by Caroline Champetier ("The Innocents") who captures the bucolic loveliness of the Limousin area of south central France.

Now part of the new region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, it is the least populated region of Metropolitan France and most likely has not changed much since the years in which the film takes place. Based on a 1924 novel by war veteran Ernest Pérochon, Beauvois and his co-writers Frédérique Moreau and Marie-Julie Maille gradually reveal the impact of the war on one family whose two sons and son-in-law have left for the front. Supported by a moving score by Michelle Legrand ("The Price of Fame"), the film covers a period of five years from 1915 to 1920, the years during and following the Great War in Europe, one that would claim an estimated 45 million military dead and wounded and 7.7 million missing or imprisoned.

The film opens in 1915 in a combat zone where we see the bodies of dead soldiers lying in the mud. The scene abruptly shifts to the Paridier farm in France, a place of quiet beauty that stands in sharp contrast to the heartbreak of the battlefield. It is a difficult time for the farm run by widowed matriarch Hortense Sandrail (Nathalie Baye, "Moka") with the help of her daughter Solange (Laura Smet, "Yves Saint-Laurent," Baye's real-life daughter) and her elderly father Henri (Gilbert Bonneau). Beauvois shows the heroism of the women furrowing, seeding, harvesting, grinding wheat, and taking it to market. It is backbreaking work and will be years before combines and tractors are introduced.

As the men periodically return home on leave, it becomes clear that each of them is damaged in some way. Hortense's oldest son Constant (Nicholas Giraud, "Anton Chekhov 1890"), a former schoolteacher, tells his mother that he endured, "two years of hell, some people went mad," and says without any evidence that "after the war, it will be different." Clovis (Olivier Rabourdin, "My Golden Days"), Solange's husband drinks heavily and stands up for the humanity of the Germans ("they are just like us") in opposition to the feelings of the family and the community. Finally, it is Hortense's son Georges (Cyril Descours, "Red Sky") who carries himself with a certain pride and even arrogance.

Frustrated by the need for another person to help her run the farm during the harvest season, Hortense hires Francine, a twenty-year-old auburn-haired orphan, remarkably performed by newcomer Iris Bly. In addition to the chores, Hortense must contend with some rowdy American soldiers stationed in the village awaiting their orders, while also looking after Marguerite (Mathilde Viseux), Clovis's daughter from his first marriage. Complications arise when Francine and George fall in love, much to the chagrin of the much younger Marguerite, assumed to be the girl that George would marry. The friction between members of the family forms the centerpiece of the film and Beauvois weaves a complex and unpredictable story without resorting to melodrama.

Unfortunately, when the town's rumor mill goes into high gear spreading all kinds of rumors, Francine's future is left on shaky ground. Even more disturbing is the sad news from the front delivered by a local official who just appears at the door. As events unfold, we are drawn closer to each character, able to relate to their hopes and sorrows as if we have known them all of their lives. Though The Guardians is a film of subtlety and restraint, it is also a work of compelling emotional force and one of the year's best films.
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Slow but beautiful
richard-17878 January 2018
This movie does not move quickly. But it is beautifully filmed and well acted by a group of actresses headed by Natalie Baye. Not for the impatient, but it will be appreciated by those who can take the time to let it have an effect.

This is life on the home front, in the country The other side of war. No one shot at these women, but their lives were still difficult.

Interesting that the depiction of American soldiers is largely negative. They have plenty of money, and are not interested in "the locals" other than as sex objects.
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Almost in a class by itself.
Bachfeuer15 July 2018
Few tho they are, the previous user reviews do well at putting this superb film in context--even while underrating it. I thought JEAN DE FLORETTE and MANON OF THE SPRING were simply the best films made in the 80s. This film, with its related French provincial peasant saga, is very nearly as good. FRANTZ and A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT are very distinguished recent comparables. Enjoy!
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France as you've never seen it and introducing Iris Bry
pfscpublic25 August 2018
I was smitten by Iris Bry as Francine and entranced by the film, thinking about French landscape from a different point of view in those war years. If you love film, sit back and enjoy a wonderful story that differs from the usual WW1fare.
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Strong dramatic film about French Civilians in WWI
Red-12519 June 2018
The French movie Les Gardiennes (2017) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title The Guardians. It was co-written and directed by Xavier Beauvois . It stars Iris Bry as Francine, an orphan who works at a family farm while the men are at the front in WWI. Nathalie Baye portrays Hortense, a farm matriarch with two sons and a son-in-law away at war. Laura Smet plays Solange, Hortense's daughter. (She actually is Baye's daughter.)

This movie is brilliant in its portrayal of the hard physical labor demanded of farmworkers--male or female--a century ago. Their men suffered terribly in the trenches, but keeping the farm going wasn't a bed of roses.

One interesting theme of the film is that the war demanded machines of war. Some of these machines had civilian utility. When the war begins, horses and oxen pulled the plow. By the end of the war, a tractor would replace them.

The acting in the movie was superb throughout. However, in my opinion, acting honors go to Natalie Baye. Baye was almost 70 when she played this role. When she was young, she was the darling of the French New Wave directors. Her acting skills are obviously intact, and she carries off her role superbly.

We saw this movie at Rochester's excellent Little Theatre. It will work almost as well on the small screen. This movie has an adequate 7.1 IMDb rating. but I think it's much better than that. Don't miss it!
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Nontraditional Female World War I Characters
Raven-19692 December 2018
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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Wonderful French film
bethanydsimmons7 January 2020
I love foreign films. The French make some amazing dramas. This is my new favorite French film. Realistic and not over the top. The characters are so believable. I'll watch it many times.
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Slow but rewarding
arsaellb3 August 2019
Very slow start and little dialogue in periods. The second half is much better and the story is quite engaging in the end.
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an other french NAVET
sixgale14 April 2018
Slow and boring dramatized and very uninteresting 14-18 french story

frankly do not loose your time and money you will be disappointed

Nathalie Baye are good where Laura Smet seem to be insane and crazy like mad dog

No music, flat story, uninteresting and without any interest you will see an american soldier (14-18!!!???) well a shame and this shame cote 7.3 on imdb ...
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Lenta pero agradable. Slow but nice
Andres-Camara18 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Este es un director que no me llega a transmitir. Pero tengo que admitir que esta película, aun teniendo un tempo, lento, aun explayándose demasiado tiempo en cosas que no hacen falta, nos cuenta la vida del campo entera y no necesitamos saberla, pero la película tiene interés.

Me sobra el principio de la película. Los dos primero años. Se entiende perfectamente sin ellos.

Los actores están estupendos, si no fuese por ellos, la película se caería entera.

La iluminación no es mala, es peor, tiene una fotografía blanca que no me dice nada de nada.

El director, que no gusta como dirige, para mi guste hace una película larga. Vale que el tempo le guste lento, vale, a veces hace falta. Pero que sobren secuencias, es otra cosa. Es especialista en observar con la cámara y a mí eso me parece perder mucha potencia visual.

Pero esta al menos si tiene fuerza.

This is a director who does not transmit to me. But I have to admit that this film, even having a tempo, slow, even expounding too much time on things that are not needed, tells us the life of the whole field and we do not need to know it, but the film has interest.

I have plenty of the beginning of the movie. The first two years. It is perfectly understood without them.

The actors are great, if it were not for them, the film would fall entirely.

The lighting is not bad, it's worse, it has a white photograph that does not tell me anything at all.

The director, who does not like how he directs, for my liking makes a long film. It's okay if the tempo likes slow, okay, sometimes it's necessary. But what about sequences, is another thing. He is a specialist in observing with the camera and to me that seems to lose a lot of visual power.

But this is at least if it has strength
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Beautifull slow film of the French countryside in 1914-1918
frankvaneijkern23 March 2018
While the man are fighting the Germans, the women take care of the farm and land. Against this background the story enrolles.
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