Suite Francaise is a handsome adaptation of the Irène Némirovsky novel Dolce, written during the Second World War before she was murdered in Auschwitz in 1942. The unfinished work was eventually published by Némirovsky’s daughter in 2004, and became a critical and commercial phenomenon. While the film doesn’t live up to the novel or even the novel’s backstory, it’s not a total disappointment. Michelle Williams brings depth and complexity to her role as Lucile, a woman living in occupied France caught between romance and sedition. The source of her conflict is Bruno (Matthias Schoenaerts), the hunky officer from the German army who happens to be billeted with her. He loves playing the piano – so he can’t be that bad, right? – and soon they’re embroiled in a love affair, which for him is also an expression of dissent against the brutal occupying army of which he is a part and to which he increasingly objects.
As a story of love in war, Suite Francaise should be commended for avoiding the usual moral simplifications. It perhaps goes too far the other way – its emotional force is stifled by its reserve.
CRITICS’ CHOICE: FILM
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