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

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

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.