Based on the acclaimed novel by Irène Némirovsky, Suite Française is a story of a forbidden love in Nazi occupied France. The film focuses on the trappings of the protagonist Lucile (Williams). Lucile is trapped by her over bearing mother in law Madame Angellier’s (Scott Thomas) strict rules, trapped by the fear of gossip from the other townspeople and trapped along with the rest of France by Nazi occupation. After being called upon to house a German officer, Lucile’s entrapment seems unending. However, the arrival of officer Bruno (Schoenaerts) and the loving relationship formed between these two characters turns out to be Lucile’s only form of respite. Still trapped under the watchful eye of Madame Angellier and the gossiping towns people, and above all trapped by political differences and her national duty, Suite Française follows the development of her love and the tests these characters must endure to ensure its survival and their own.
Director : Saul Dibb
Starring : Michelle Williams, Kristen Scott Thomas, Matthias Schoenaerts
release date: March 13th
Suite Française’s dramatic depiction of life under Nazi rule is magnificent. The perfectly captured chaotic beginning of both the film and of the Nazi invasion immediately engulfs the attention of the viewer. This attention is driven and sustained throughout the film by the exceptionally beautiful soundtrack, provided by the ever reliable Alexandre Desplat, and Dibb’s ability to incorporate so many different characteristics of Nazi occupation into the one plot, some where they are least expected. This unpredictability is a refreshing change from a world of shamelessly formulated Katherien Heigl type romance films. Unfortunately it takes a bit of getting into, starting poorly in some of the early scenes where Lucile is played as an overly naïve, small town country girl who’s moapy attitude is simply distracting and annoying, particularly when set against the strong, determined character of her mother in law. Indeed the mother in law seems the strongest character for a time and she is immediately forgiven for her strict nature when her unfaltering survival instincts become apparent. Thankfully however, Lucile gradually matures from her helplessness and Williams appears to settle more comfortably into her role as a maturing and loving woman than as a young, dependant girl.
Throughout the occupation Suite Française creates an uneasy feeling that all is going relatively well but an audience cannot help to question for how long? One of the most poignant lessons viewers will leave the cinema with is the consequences of gossip, of corruption and of the snowball effect these small town quibbles can have in a time and a place over run by such a severe force as the Nazis. Suite Française proves that war unmasks people and shows what they are truly made of, some for the better, some for worse. The film proves that no one is safe from persecution and no one can be trusted.
In A Nutshell: A huge, encompassing, engaging historical romance with some unmissable performances and thought provoking drama at every turn.