Speaking of good acting, Daniel Auteuil as her husband does a fine job as well as the Captain, the man who runs the prison and who has to oversee the execution of a heinous murderer Neel who gutted a neighbor like a cod to see if he was fat or just big?
Sound odd? It's not. The plot, Neel's character growth, and the changing perspective of the town are quite believable. The sentiment is strongly against capital punishment, based on compassion and the ability for people to change. In fact, Neel becomes well-liked and somewhat of a town hero, and goes so far as to bed a widow or two. But in all fairness, if Neel had killed again, then Madame La's compassion would have been quite ill-advised. The movie strives to make a point about capital punishment, and it does achieve that.
The cinematography is beautiful and unique showing off the rugged landscape of Newfoundland. And the costumes are beautiful as well, so beautiful to earn the movie the categorization as a period piece. Such a narrow classification would do this beautfiul movie an injustice, as it offers so much more than costumes.
The prisoner is under the control of a Captain, played by Daniel Auteuil. He is deeply in love with his wife, played by Juliette Binoche. There are some tender scenes of their lovemaking as well as scenes in which it is clear that he adores her and respects her in all ways. And so, when she sets out to reform the convicted murderer, he supports her wish. The convicted man is allowed out of his prison cell and accompanies her all over the province. He helps out the townspeople and works with her to plant a garden and learns to read. He even impregnates a local woman and marries her. Everyone in the town grows to admire this man and nobody wants the execution to take place.
What will happen? I was drawn into the story and, along with the townspeople, I too hoped he would eventually get his freedom. But the story is not as simple as that. And, as the tension heightened and moved towards its conclusion, I found myself clearly upset as I saw the way it was going.
This is a good film. The story and acting and cinematography are all excellent. It moved a little too slowly for my taste, however. And I found it hard to believe that the condemned man would be given so much freedom to move around the town. But this doesn't detract from the quality of the film, the empathy I felt throughout for all the characters or the subtleties of characterization that made the story seem real and poignant.