The Widow Of St Pierre (La Veuve De Saint-Pierre)

"Good"

The Widow Of St Pierre (La Veuve De Saint-Pierre) Review


It's been a week since I saw "The Widow of St. Pierre," and I'm still a little frustrated with it.

I was effectively drawn in to the story, about the wife of a 19th Century French commandant who befriends a death row prisoner in her husband's charge and champions the cause of sparing his life. The story takes emotionally-hooking twists as -- while waiting for a guillotine to arrive from France so the man can be legally executed -- the people of the barren, wintry island of St. Pierre (apparently off the coast of Newfoundland) become so attached to the gentle criminal that no one is willing to act as his executioner.

As you can glean from the title, there are tragic results. What sticks in my craw is the fact that the blame rests with the widow herself (played with poignant, fervent, impulsive intensity by Juliette Binoche). Not that I can blame her. She finds herself in a terrible spot.

Indulged by her worshipping husband (Daniel Auteuil), whom she loves just as deeply in return, the compassionate Binoche is allowed to visit the prisoner (Emir Kusturica), whom she finds to be a virtuous, guileless soul who realizes he made a grave mistake when he committed a murder while in a drunken stupor.

Determined to redeem this man, she takes him on as her protégé, eventually winning such trust from her husband that she's allowed to take the prisoner out into the island village to atone for his sins with handyman works of community service.

As they become loyal friends, a strong bond forms between wife and prisoner, and as the condemned man becomes known to the population at large through his noble and even heroic acts (he saves a woman's life), he becomes a beloved and trusted citizen, and even a husband to an impoverished local who is carrying his child.

Then comes the ship carrying the guillotine, and despite mounting pressure from the provincial government, the captain has come to sympathize with his prisoner and refuses to participate in his execution, leading to charges of sedition and worse.

At the axis of "Widow" is Binoche's ardent performance as the trusting, needfully devoted captain's wife. She and Auteuil, who lends much nobility to his chivalry, have the kind of chemistry together that reveals everything about their constant, blindly romantic relationship without any need for backstory.

Kusturica truly earns the spellbinding sympathy of his benefactress with his performance that begins with the murder, inviting the audience's ire, then reveals his luggish character's openhearted ingenuousness.

Director Patrice Leconte ("Girl on the Bridge," "Ridicule") adeptly portrays the evolving feelings of the people of St. Pierre, whose acceptance of the prisoner is very gradual. He shoots the film in beautiful, cold blues, golds, and silvers. But he's a little too enamored of using hand-held cameras, which serves only to shake the viewer out of the period mindset.

And that brings me back to my only other issue with "The Widow of St. Pierre," which is that I would have acted so very differently (and more sensibly, in my opinion) had I been in these characters' shoes, that I had a hard time accepting and commiserating with their actions. But this is a personal obstacle, not a criticism of the film. If you're not inside my head, you probably won't find it a problem.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.