In theaters this Friday from writer Pascal Bonitzer, director Anne Fontaine and Music Box Films it the extraordinary life of “The Innocents.”
Mathilde (Lou de Laage) is a young intern in Poland working with the French Red Cross in 1945. Her day to day is taking care of the wounded that the ambulances find out in the war torn areas.
Surrounded by soldiers and children, one wouldn’t expect to see a nun until Sister Maria (Agata Buzek) does just that. She begins asking for help and is turned away repeatedly. Mathilde sees the young Pollish nun outside waiting and gives in. Following the young Sister back to the convent, the intern is asked to help a pregnant woman who is in trouble delivering.
The convent Mere Abesse (Agata Kulesza) isn’t happy with the appearance of the doctor but it becomes clear quite quickly that they all need her help. Mathilde finally gets the story from Sister Maria that soldiers broke into the convent and what happened to the women is nothing short of shocking.
Mathilde wants more than ever to be there for each of the women and even turns to Doctor Samuel (Vincent Macaigne). Each of the nuns who fought against her help, now turn to Mathilde for guidance and even comfort.
Believing all the secrets were revealed, there is one more that will either bring down the convent or help it rise up!
Laage as Mathilde is a young woman who seems to be going through the motions of life during war. No real faith in love, relationships or humanity for that matter, it is in a convent full of nuns that she finds faith in those things. She also finds the best and worst in a building that should have protected the women of God. Laage embraces the duality of her character and is absolutely stunning.
Buzek as Sister Maria is a force to be reckoned with. She goes against the grain and the rules of the convent to do what she feels is right. Knowing there are consequences for her actions waiting with the Abesse, she becomes the mediator between their religious beliefs and the needs for medical science to save the innocent.
Kulesza as the Abesse is doing what she must to help the sisters forget the events that happened at the convent. It isn’t until Mathilde steps in unexpectedly that she trusts the interns good intentions. The shocking ending is brought about by the actions of this character.
Macaigne as Samuel is helplessly in love with Mathilde, in that ball of emotion he wants to help her take care of the women in the convent. He has his own feelings regarding the Polish people being Jewish himself and has no problem sharing those feelings with the Abesse.
Other cast include: Joanna Kulig as Irena, Eliza Rycembel as Teresa, Katarzyna Dabrowska as Anna, Anna Prochniak as Zofia, Helena Sujecka as Ludwika, Mira Maluszinska as Bibiana, Dorota Kuduk as Wanda, Klara Bielawka as Joanna, Thomas Coumans as Gaspard and Leon Latan-Paszek as Wladek.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “The Innocents” five tubs of popcorn out of five. This is such an amazing film in every sense of the word. The ensemble brings this trying story to life in such a way that I fell into it completely forgetting that I was even watching a film.
The story presents itself as the grimmest of grim and the stunning cinematography and set location keeps that theme running the entire film. That being said, in the midst of the grim and gray is the amazing spirit of both believer and non-believer.
The film is 120 minutes in length and for this story to be so magnificently told in that amount of time is incredible. That being said I should not have been surprised since this director is also responsible for “Coco Before Chanel” and the film “Chloe,” which is one of my favorites.
Writer Pascal Bonitzer is himself a triple threat as a writer-actor-director being nominated and winning awards for his work as well that include “My Favorite Season” and “The Story of Marie and Julien” that is so cool!
“The Innocents” was nominated for Best Feature at the Jerusalem Film Festival, nominated for Best Director and Best Actress at the Seattle International Film Festival and won Best Narrative Feature at the Provincetown international Film Festival. The film was also the Official Selection of 2016 at the Sundance Film Festival.
When looking for a film that brings both heart, soul and faith together, then “The Innocents” is the story that needs to be experienced by all.