UK Release Date: 13th March 2015
Runtime: 107 minutes
Director: Saul Dibb
Writer: Saul Dibb, Matt Charman
Starring: Michelle Williams, Matthias Schoenaerts, Kristin Scott Thomas, Margot Robbie, Sam Riley, Ruth Wilson
Synopsis: A lonely French girl becomes infatuated with a German officer when he is billeted to her home during the occupation of France in World War Two.
The star-crossed wartime lovers story is one that is incredibly common in popular cinema. Suite Francaise – set during the German occupation of France in World War Two – is the latest entry in the genre. For all of its pretty period dress and surface grandeur, it’s ultimately a desperately boring lump of cheese.
In a small French village, Lucille (Michelle Williams), whose husband is away on the frontline, stays at home during the war with her hard-nosed mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas). After the German’s occupy France, Bruno (Matthias Schoenaerts) – an officer – is billeted to their home. Initially resistant, Lucille finds herself falling for the visitor and has her loyalties challenged when a local (Sam Riley) becomes the subject of a manhunt.
The central story of Suite Francaise is actually a relatively decent one, with the fugitive narrative positioning it a notch above the standard star-crossed lover story. Sadly, however, it is completely let down by some terrible execution on behalf of director and co-writer Saul Dibb.
| "The only person I have something in common with is you."
Simply put, Suite Francaise is an utterly insipid production. There is nothing in the way of visual flair and the lensing is incredibly ordinary, which leaves the world in which the film is set feeling empty and lacking in personality. It seems unsure whether it wants to be a straight love story or a tale about the conflicting moralities at the heart of war. There’s little sense of the desperation of the French and the Germans barely have characters, even those who are instrumental to the plot.
Michelle Williams, too, is bland in the central role. She has absolutely no chemistry with Matthias Schoenaerts and he has none of the slimy charisma that he brought to The Drop. Only Kristin Scott Thomas brings anything in the way of presence to the screen, but the film has no interest in her character, leaving her to sit out most of the storytelling.
In fact, it’s a running theme of Suite Francaise that the ancillary characters are far more interesting than those at the centre of the story. The residents of the film’s village seem to be considerably more intriguing than the protagonists, with Sam Riley’s rebel in particular an interesting figure. The film could’ve benefited from adding extra focus to one of these characters at the expense of the central pairing.
| "I see everything that goes on in this house."
The praise being heaped upon Suite Francaise in some quarters is utterly baffling, given that it is a film entirely without personality or intrigue. It’s handsome enough to look at, but there’s absolutely no heart or substance beneath the surface.
Pop or Poop?
With insipid performances at its heart and a script that doesn’t know which plot facet it wants to amplify, it’s a film without charm. There are bombs exploding all around, but the film utterly fails to catch fire.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.