Starring: Michelle Williams, Kristen Scott Thomas, Matthias Schoenaerts
Director: Saul Dibb
Saul Dibb made his feature film directorial debut back in 2005 and in the last decade he had made just one other big screen appearance with The Duchess. However, that is set to change this week as he returns to the director's chair with Suite Française.
Suite Française is a big screen adaptation of the novel of the same name by Irène Némirovsky, and is set during the early years of the German occupation of France. Dibb has teamed up with Matt Charman to pen the screenplay.
Set during the German occupation of France in the 1940's, Suite Française tells the story of Lucille Angellier (Williams) as she awaits news from her husband, a prisoner of war.
As Parisian refugees pour into their small town, soon followed by a regiment of German soldiers who take up residence in the villagers' homes, Lucile's life is turned upside down - further complicated by the arrival of refined German officer, Bruno (Schoenaerts). Soon, a powerful love draws them together and traps them in the tragedy of war.
I always like to see a war movie that is away from the frontlines and explores the struggles of everyday people after their loved ones had gone off to war and struggled on under rationing - and in the case of the French, occupation.
It is not often that we see a film look at the politics of sleeping with the enemy, but Saul Dibb as delved into this taboo and has done it beautifully. Not only has he explored the pros and cons of sleeping with the enemy, but he has also looked at how class division had a huge impact on the occupation.
No character symbolises that more than Madame Angellier - the terrific Kristen Scott Thomas - who strongly shuns all contact with the German forces and will not even speak to the officer living in her house. However, it is a different story for the poor residents of the town; many of them have to sleep with the enemy in order to survive.
Dibb really does dive into some bold and interesting themes that we don't often seen on the big screen. By doing so, he has created interesting characters and shot the movie beautifully.
Thomas really is on top form as Madame Angellier, while Michelle Williams and Matthias Schoenaerts also give standout performances as Lucile and Bruno. Lucile is a woman whose husband is away fighting and Bruno may be in the army but his no Nazi. He made a difficult choice of going to war with neighbouring France or facing a firing squad as a traitor.
There is a great chemistry between them and together they create this beautiful love story. I have been a fan of Williams for some, and this another terrific performance from the actress. Schoenaerts is an actor who has been making a name for himself in recent years with Rust & Bone and The Drop, and he once again shows of his versatility with this latest role.
Irène Némirovsky novel was written over fifty years ago - before she sadly died in Auschwitz - but it wasn't until the late nineties did her family read her work for the first time. She had penned two of a planned five novel series, which remains one of the greatest Second World War novels.
The fact that Némirovsky doesn't distinguish between good and evil in her book, is one of the reasons that the novel is so successful. I am happy to say, Dibb has done the same with the film. Lucile is not the good Frenchwoman and Bruno is not painted as the 'evil' German, they are just two people on opposing sides who have fallen in love - I think that is something that just works so beautifully.
Suite Française is one of those terrific wartime romance movies that will pull at your heartstrings - I recommend taking a hanky. Mix that we great central performances and the fact that this film is visually stunning and we have a real treat on our hands.