The Widow of Saint-Pierre

Based on a true story, this 19th-century period romance (2000) by Patrice Leconte concerns the only man ever condemned to death on Saint Pierre, a French island near Newfoundland. Convicted of a drunken and senseless murder, he attracts the interest of the garrison captain's wife (Juliette Binoche), who engages him to help her construct a greenhouse, and after his good deeds endear him to the islanders, the captain and his wife take up his cause. There are some irritating cutaways to the boat carrying a guillotine to Saint Pierre for the execution, but Bosnian-born director Emir Kusturica delivers a superb performance as the prisoner, a brutish cipher who gradually reveals his humanity, and the delicate lighting often produces silhouetted faces that evoke the ultimate incomprehensibility of human emotion. In French with subtitles. 112 min.

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