August 25, 2011

Charlotte Gray

Having just visited The Holocaust Memorial Museum and also having just seen Cate Blanchett in Uncle Vanya in DC, this film just seemed like a natural thing to revisit in my Netflix streaming.

Charlotte Gray
is a movie based from the novel by Sebastian Faulks involving a remarkable Scottish woman who comes to London to join the war effort during WWII. She meets and falls in love with Peter Gregory (Rupert Penry Jones) a Royal Airforce Pilot. As fate would have it, Peter gets shot down in German occupied France. In the meantime, Charlotte, fluent in french for having spent her younger years in France, is recruited as a courier by the British Army. Her mission was a test mission to hand over radio valves to French resistance fighters.

Charlotte parachutes down behind enemy territory and meets the leader of the French resistance, Julien (Billy Crudup). In succeeding scenes, we soon find out that Charlotte's hand off of the valves is botched and her cover is blown. Julien helps her assume a new identity as house keeper to Julien's father, Levade (Michael Gambon). She is asked to help out in the house and also take care of 2 Jewish boys Julien rescued, Andre and Jacob whose parents have been taken away and arrested. She becomes the surrogate mother to the boys while at the same time trying to find out information about Peter. Their situation becomes more precarious when the German army moves into their town and when neighbors betray neighbors.

Cate Blanchett plays the title role and as always, she is excellent. She perfectly conveys how Charlotte is changed by the war and by the people she met. There is a gripping scene where she stands on the street paralyzed with fear as a Nazi battalion walks around her. No dialogue, just facial expressions but totally compelling.

Billy Crudup was equally impressive as Julien conveying passion and urgency. He also has a good grasp of an English language tinted by a French accent. Michael Gambon is endearing as the elder Levade plus the two Jewish boys were adorable.

It's a gripping film where you really want to find out what happens to the principal characters. Also it's a great look at a time in French history which they might not be particularly proud of when the Vichy Government collaborated with the Nazi's and sent French Jews to concentration camps. It's not a topic often portrayed on film.


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