Suite Francaise – A Review

Suite Francaise is the adaptation of the novel of the same name by Iréne Nemirovsky. The novel itself was based on a manuscript that came to light decades after the author was shipped off to be murdered in a concentration camp. It’s sad to say, but the story behind the story is, in a lot of ways, more interesting than what’s on screen.

The story opens with Michelle Williams’ Lucille living under the thumb of her mother in law (Kristen Scott Thomas) in rural France at the outbreak of war, a war her husband is fighting in, whereabouts unknown. As refugees begin to stream in from a soon to fall Paris the full shock and horror facing the country becomes apparent. The floods of desperate people are soon followed by German troops. It’s one of these troops, the cultured nice guy Lieutenant Falk (Matthias Schoenarts), that strikes up a relationship with Lucille. He’s the only person in her strictly controlled life that she seems to feel any connection to. The expected testing of loyalties follows for both sides.

The film’s first act, where an entire country has to come to terms really quickly with what’s about to go down feels immediate and interesting. One scene of an aerial attack hammers this home nicely. The general feeling is like looking at a series of reaction shots of Brazil fans the last time Germany inflicted an existential smack in the face to that country at the last World Cup. This soon gives way to a series of by the book plot points. Immediately you can see the possible resistance fighter, the collaborator, the asshole soldier who’ll stir it all up etc.

Everyone does their job well. The performances are solid, the direction is solid and you’ve no doubt that the technicians knew what they were at. It’s diverting but unfortunately never feels interesting. If nothing else, it’s a movie that’s remarkable for existing, not for its content.
Suite Francaise is out Friday 13th March