Forbidden love, lust and libidos in a time of war
Suite Francaise opens with grainy black and white news footage of the German advance in June 1940 then bleeds into full colour as the narrative moves to the bucolic town of Bussy, east of the capital.
Madame Angellier (Kristin Scott Thomas), whose son has enlisted, ignores the spectre of war to collect rent from cash-strapped tenants, aided by her daughter-in-law Lucile (Michelle Williams).
On the road, they encounter refugees, who have fled Paris in the futile hope of outrunning Hitler’s troops.
Soon after, the Germans arrive and commander Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts) is billeted with the Angelliers.
“There was a relief in his presence after months of silence,” poetically remarks Lucile, who shares the handsome officer’s love for music.
Suite Francaise is a well-crafted yet emotionally underpowered portrait of a community torn apart by prejudice and suspicion.
Thomas delivers another steely turn as a woman of substance, who refuses to bend to the Germans’ might, while on-screen chemistry between Williams and Schoenaerts remains at a gentle simmer.
Star rating: 7/10