The Widow Of St. Pierre

  • 2000
  • Movie
  • R
  • Drama, Historical

A genuinely heartbreaking, romantic film based on a true story; frankly, if it doesn't make you cry, we don't want to know you. The title notwithstanding, star Juliette Binoche doesn't play a widow; she's Madame La, wife of a French military commandant (Daniel Auteuil) stuck in a remote French colony on the Canadian coastal island of St. Pierre in 1850....read more

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Reviewed by Steve Simels
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A genuinely heartbreaking, romantic film based on a true story; frankly, if it doesn't make you cry, we don't want to know you. The title notwithstanding, star Juliette Binoche doesn't play a widow; she's Madame La, wife of a French military commandant (Daniel Auteuil) stuck in a remote French colony on the Canadian coastal island of St. Pierre in 1850. Life there is uneventful until the night a sailor murders a fisherman in a senseless, drunken brawl. The killer, Neel Auguste (Yugoslav director Emil Kusturica, who only looks like he fronted Canned Heat at the first Woodstock), is immediately remorseful, and Madame La begins performing little acts of kindness on his behalf. Eventually, Auguste returns her compassion by doing his own good turns for nearly everyone who lives on the island. In the process, he becomes a beloved figure to all but the bureaucrats awaiting the arrival of a guillotine (a "widow," in old French slang), which will allow them to get rid of the increasingly troublesome do-goodnik. Director Patrice Leconte's pacing sometimes feels a little leisurely, heavy on the dawdling over admittedly gorgeous Northern scenery. And there are a few moments that are just, shall we say, too French for words: A brief scene of the Commandant sniffing his wife's nightgown (presumably to demonstrate how hot their relationship is) verges on art-house parody. Mostly, though, Leconte's direction is pleasingly austere, with a few interesting change-of-pace moments, including one brief, fast-cut sequence that recalls (probably deliberately) Abel Gance's NAPOLEON. And Leconte's evocation of the period seems utterly authentic; you never get the feeling, as you do in most Hollywood historical epics (like Roland Emmerich's THE PATRIOT), that you're watching a bunch of contemporary actors running around in funny clothes.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • Review: A genuinely heartbreaking, romantic film based on a true story; frankly, if it doesn't make you cry, we don't want to know you. The title notwithstanding, star Juliette Binoche doesn't play a widow; she's Madame La, wife of a French military commandant (Da… (more)

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