Charlotte Gray (review)

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The dramatic, Ingrid Bergman close-up of Cate Blanchett’s exquisite face that opens Charlotte Gray is the first hint: this is a long-lost classic from The War that fell through a time warp and landed at our feet today. (If only the film were in black- and- white, that would cinch it.) Old-fashioned in the best sense — emotional without being stickily sentimental, giving more than just a passing nod to character — with a modern sensibility — female sexuality is embraced as a normal, healthy thing — this is a wonderful, wonderful film. Scottish Charlotte (Blanchett: Bandits, who continues her unbroken streak of perfect performances) is recruited as an undercover operative by the British to help the French resistance, her tour of duty in the French countryside full of danger and heartbreak: hiding two Jewish boys whose parents have been disappeared; mistrusting her contact in the resistance (Billy Crudup: Almost Famous, ditto the perfect performances) and being mistrusted in return; confronting weaselly Nazi collaborators; and facing betrayal and loss on a regular basis. Part elegant action movie — Charlotte participates in some spectacular sabotage of the Nazis — part psychological drama that does not ignore the consequences of such action, this is a tremendously moving film about the horrible things people do to one another in wartime and small kindnesses amid the horror. Is it pointless to hope in such situations, the film wonders? No, it reassures us: it’s the entire point.

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