Suite Française

From the instant we see Michelle Williams and Kristin Scott Thomas, we know that World War II drama Suite Française will be an acting treat and a bit of a soap opera. Williams plays Lucile Angellier, who dutifully awaits the return of her husband. We are in Nazi-occupied France and Lucille is forced to stay with her unbearably bossy mother-in-law (Scott Thomas) at the family’s estate in the small French town of Bussy. The arrival of the Germans means that Madame Angellier has to open her house and accept one of the officers as a lodger. Officer Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a handsome and sensitive man who plays the piano and composes music. Lucille also likes to play, but it is verboten by Madame. Of course we know what happens next. Later, Lucille uses her influence on him to help others in town. Some of the people she helps are Benoît (Sam Riley) and his wife Madeleine (Ruth Wilson) who have to deal with the sexual advances from the officer billeted at their farm. Although it suffers a bit from over production, it is still good enough for me to recommend. One small thing bothers me. Why was this film not made in French? Imagine Marion Cotillard and Catherine Deneuve. Or other great French actresses (Isabelle Huppert would be great as Madame Angellier). Michelle Williams is great, and Kristin Scott Thomas is great, but they speak with British accents. Most in the cast are British. And while the French characters all speak English, the Germans all speak German. Does not make sense to me. Other than that, there is an effective thumping score is by Rael Jones. Bruno’s piano Suite Française is by Alexandre Desplat and is excellent as well.

You should know… Suite Française is adapted from the unfinished novel of the same name by Irène Némirovsky (1903 – 1942), a French Jewish author born in Russia. Némirovsky’s plan to write five separate volumes was stopped when she was transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. She reportedly died of typhus a month after she arrived there. Her two daughters, Denise and Elizabeth Epstein, escaped deportation bringing with them their mother’s notebook. Thinking it was a diary with painful memories, the notebook was not examined for over fifty years. The notebook contained the first two volumes, Tempête en juin (Storm in June) and Dolce (Sweet), and the a plot outline for a third volume, Captivité (Captivity). There was also only a few notes about the last two volumes. It was grouped and published in one volume in 2004 to rave reviews and became an international best seller. For the film version of Suite Française, Saul Dibb and Matt Charman have mainly adapted the second volume about Lucile Angellier and her mother-in-law.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Suite Française

Directed by:
Saul Dibb

Screenplay by:
Matt Charman
Saul Dibb
Based on the novel by Irène Némirovsky

Michelle Williams
Kristin Scott Thomas
Margot Robbie
Ruth Wilson
Sam Riley
Matthias Schoenaerts
Harriet Walter

107 min.

Rated 14A

In English and German with English subtitles.