The Widow of Saint Pierre
A bleak island off the Canadian coast encompasses the world in this grave, impassioned miniature epic The Widow of Saint-Pierre. The people of this tiny French outpost live by rules and manners in the mid- 19th century until one day their orderly way of life is challenged by a jailer (Daniel Auteuil), the wife he loves (Juliette Binoche), and a murderer (Bosnian director Emir Kusturica), who, having killed a man during a brawl, reforms under the couple’s compassionate care. The consequences are as harsh as the wind battering Saint-Pierre’s rocky coastline, and as inevitable.
This eloquently tragic drama about the death penalty is spellbinding. (The French nicknamed their guillotine la veuve — the widow — giving the film’s title added weight). French director Patrice Leconte offers a profound study of sincerity and hypocrisy, liberated by the cover of historical panoply he so lovingly recreates — the romance of long skirts and army officers’ smart uniforms — to ask timeless, hard questions about human behavior. A captivating film. Available on Netflix.