A Very Long Engagement is an exquisite French-language movie for the adult audience. It is available on Netflix as a Play-Now offering with English subtitles.
Immediately post-WWI, young Mathilde receives word that her fiance, Manet, has been killed. She is certain in her heart that he cannot be dead: “If he were dead, I would know it.”
Mathilde embarks on a painstaking, expensive, sometimes heart-breaking search to find out the truth about his death. Along the way, she uncovers the story of Manet’s last day in combat.
It turns out that Manet was one of a group of five French soldiers condemned to die for the treasonable acts of making themselves unfit for combat. The film follows Mathilde’s discovery of what happened to each of the five men. Part-way through the movie, you will be surprised to see Jodie Foster. Ms. Foster plays a woman whose husband has begged her to be unfaithful to him. His logic is compelling.
This is one of those movies where all the motivations are correct: everyone is doing what he would be doing in such a situation, and the reason for doing each thing is clearly articulated.
Engagement shows war in its horror, love at its most enduring. It is populated with fascinating characters: a man with a wooden hand, a vengeful murderess, a fat-and-happy farmwife, a corrupt official. You meet men and women broken by war, impelled by self-sacrifice, impassioned for their homelands. Some are driven by hate, some by love.
The movie ends as it should: poignantly. With hope.
(Not for children: graphic war scenes, a couple of love-making scenes)