1849, the island of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon. After commiting a senseless murder, drunkard Auguste (Kusturica) awaits execution by guillotine, which is yet to be delivered. During the months of waiting in the custody of the town's captain (Auteuil), his wife (Binoche) teaches and redeems the wretched man - much to the irritation of the community's elite.
Everything about this 1850s melodrama is propitious. The windswept terrain and forbidding snowscapes of the isolated French colony off the Newfoundland coast are strikingly photographed by Eduardo Serra. Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche are perfectly cast as the captain of the garrison and his devoted wife, who seeks to prove to the community that there is intrinsic good in a murderous stranger (Kusturica), who has been granted a stay of execution thanks only to the delayed delivery of a guillotine. Yet, somehow, the elements don't gel.
There are disconcerting gaps in the narrative's logic, the acting is imperiously remote and the lack of palpable emotion stalls the drama short of engrossing. It's a highly burnished heritage picture, but slightly more is expected of M. Leconte.
A rare misstep from a great director, but by no means unwatchable.