#REVIEW: “SUITE FRANÇAISE”
Inspired by the acclaimed, post-humously-released Novel by War Prisoner Irène Némirovsky, Suite Française is set in a Nazi-occupied France during WWII. Nazi soldiers are assigned to billets, hosted by reluctant French Villagers. We meet Lucille (Michelle Williams) and her Mother-in-Law Madame Angellier (Kristin Scott Thomas) as Husband and Son to both respectively, is sent-off to war. Tension grows thick as a Nazi Lieutenant named Bruno (Matthias Schoenaerts) enters the picture, assigned to live with Lucille and Madame Angellier. A bond builds between Lucille and Bruno, although never too tight under the watchful and distrusting eye of Madame Angellier.
One fateful day Lucille is called upon for help by a destitute Madeleine (Ruth Wilson) after her Husband Benoit (Sam Riley) lands himself in trouble. Lucille finds herself torn between loyalties to her country and people, versus the man for whom her affections grow, with allegiances to the Enemy.
Suite Française succeeds as both an intense wartime Drama set amidst deeply fearful and uncertain times, and at once a Romance of star-crossed Lovers under dangerous circumstances. We feel at any moment something will take a turn for the worst and that is what keeps us invested. Instead of vilifying the Nazis as often happens in War Dramas, the Story takes a bit more of a compassionate approach, told through richly-developed Characters. We realize the French Villagers, who should by type be the Protagonists here, even are faced with questionable morals when it comes to survival, while one of the kindest Characters ends up being a Nazi. Through nuanced dialogue, we are pushed to uncover subtext, getting even more out of these performances.
Williams who has been absent for an extended period, delivers yet another compelling effort and we really feel her struggle, remaining icily-elegant while caught in a complex web of emotions that are weaved by some of the choices she makes. Schoenaerts who seems to be hitting a sweet spot with the great Far From the Madding Crowd earlier this year and now this. He is phenomenal and almost impossible not to fall for with Bruno‘s brooding, tortured soul. Thomas manages to be even more commanding and fearsome than many of the Nazis surprisingly, and while Wilson is seen in limited doses, she leaves a lasting impression with Madeleine‘s growing despair.
Suite Française is a substantial and affecting Piece – a welcome break from the season of the summer Blockbuster.
eOne Films release SUITE FRANÇAISE on Friday, July 3, 2015.