Review: The Guardians

Set on a family farm in France during 1915, Xavier Beauvois’ films sees the men of the family leave to go and fight whilst the women are left behind to care for the farm. When the workload gets too tough, Hortense Sandrail (Nathalie Baye) decides to hire a farmhand named Francine Riant (Iris Bry) to help during the harvest season. Once Hortense’s son returns from the war, he begins to fall in love with Francine. The Guardians is proof that there’s still life in the overused “love story during the war” trope and also tackles the impact returning from the fight has as well as articulating the strength and resolve of the women left to tend the farm perfectly.

…proof that there’s still life in the overused “love story during the war” trope

Despite the hardships of having to tend the farm alone and also knowing they may be told their loved ones have died at any given time, the women never give up and always keep the coolest heads. This is further implied when, on the rare occasion there are men in the scene, it doesn’t take long before there is an uncomfortable argument or a disruption in the way things have been working. The three leads all give solids and commendable performances as different women coping with their situation in entirely different ways.

There are a multitude of stunning establishing shots, creating a huge number moments where the mundane, everyday life looks extraordinary.

There are a multitude of stunning establishing shots, creating a huge number moments where the mundane, everyday life looks extraordinary. Never before have I watched a field being tended too with such vision and allure. On top of this, there are also a handful of long shots used that beutifully contradict one another. One may show us the joy a new born baby can bring, while another shows the grief and misery death causes. It’s a wonderful technique and only makes the emotional weight of the film really connect with its audience.

…when (the score) chimed in on top of the upbeat (scenes), it was more of a shock and a distraction

There is very little use of any score within and this caused one of the few weaknesses of the film. When the score does eventually come over some scenes, it feels unnatural and almost out of place. While it worked on the more sombre and downbeat moments, when it chimed in over the upbeat ones, it was more of a shock and a distraction, something the film definitely could’ve gone without it. The old saying that less is more defiantly applies in this scenario.

We witness first hand how their time away has literally killed a part of themselves in different, but similar ways.

The Guardians doesn’t shy away from the different ways returning home from war affectted not only the soldier, but his family too. As mentioned in the film “war damages men” and we feel this quote throughout. Even without knowing what characters were like before they went off to fight, you can feel every bit of tension there is when they return home and are unrecognisable to their own family. We witness first hand how their time away has literally killed a part of themselves in different, but similar ways. This in turn leads to the different reactions from wives, children and mothers, grateful that their loved ones have returned, but angry nothing will be the same again. It’s powerful stuff, and offers a huge alternative to the romantic plotline, again showing off two wildling contradicting emotions successfully.

The Guardians showcases two people falling for one another and making the best of a bad situation.

The relationship that blossoms between Francine and Georges (Cyril Sandrail) isn’t a grand and elaberate affair. There’s no huge gestures of affection or even long speeches about how the other is “the one”. Instead, The Guardians showcases two people falling for one another and making the best of a bad situation. It’s one of the most poignant yet touching relationships to be displayed on the big screen all year and plaudits should go to both actors. As already mentioned, the film really delves into the horrors that the war inflicted on everyone, but this key relationship also highlights that even in the darkest of times, love can overcome anything.

An extremely powerful and beautifully shot film.

Xavier Beauvois has crafted a really powerful piece of cinema with a number of conflicting moments that each highlight different emotions succesfully. The central theme can be interpertated in a number of different ways by each of us and that’s what makes it so great. There’s a lovely romance that grows over the run time but there are also powerful moments that expose the effect war has on survivors and those left behind. An extremely powerful and beautifully shot film.

8/10

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