The story of a group of undergound freedom fighters set during the German occupation of Lyon in 1943.
Set during the German occupation of Lyon in 1943, Berri's latest opus has all the ingredients for a crackerjack movie - l'amour feu, underground freedom fighters, a basis in truth - yet is tethered by a detached tone and directorial restraint, ultimately rendering a potentially heart-wrenching yarn decidedly lacklustre.
Opening on a beautifully crafted set piece of French Resistance renegades dynamiting a German munitions train, the action follows Raymond (Auteuil) and Lucie Aubrac (Bouquet - who replaced Juliette Binoche two weeks into shooting), a happily married couple - they swear to be together on every anniversary of their first lovemaking - whose intimate idyll is threatened by their participation in covert anti-Nazi missions.
When Raymond is arrested, the (static) plotting alternates his harrowing incarceration with Lucie's various ruses to set her husband free against a brick wall of bureaucracy - a task made all the more imperative by Raymond's ever-encroaching death penalty.
Abandoning the pastoral charms of his Jean De Florette, Berri's film pulls no punches detailing the horrors of imprisonment - cockroach-ridden cells and starkly brutal firing squad scenes -and is interesting on the minutiae involved in Resistance operations. Despite some unintentionally funny coded messages from Radio Blighty - "the giraffes don't wear collars" - the film avoids Resistance flick cliches (no berets or trenchcoats here), lending it historical credibility, if little excitement.
Yet what Lucie Aubrac desperately lacks is the passion to carry off its central romance caught in the sweep of tumultuous events: compounded by the hindrance that the lovers very rarely share the same screen space, the icy, aloof Bouquet and the restrained, introverted Auteuil are always watchable but far too low-key.
A lacklustre yarn whose static plotting fails toinspire.