With the minimum of fuss, Michelle Williams has put a really diverse CV of films together - The Station Agent, Brokeback Mountain, Shutter Island and My Week with Marilyn among them. She also deserves the plaudits for Suite Française, a solid adaptation of the posthumous Irène Némirovsky best-seller with the feel of a BBC-mini series. Put it this way: if your genres of choice are wartime drama or romance, then from period detail to performances you'll find something to enjoy here.
Williams plays Lucile Angellier, the wife of a POW who is stuck in a small town in Central France with an icy and domineering mother-in-law (Scott Thomas). The year is 1940, and as the Nazis roll in Lucile is forced to question what she really wants from life and how she can help those around her. It's the arrival of a German lieutenant, Bruno von Falk (Schoenaerts) as a 'guest' in her home that brings matters to a head.
Once you get over that old chestnut of the French characters speaking to each other in English but the on-screen Germans being subtitled, then Suite Française proves to be a very quick hundred-odd minutes. Arguably too quick. Given the source material and the strength of the cast and characters, director and co-screenwriter Dibb could easily have included another half-hour without losing the audience. This need for more time is most evident at the close which feels in far too much of a hurry, much like the 'And then he kicked heroin - the end' finale to Ray and the 'Oh right, there's my daughter - I'm off' ending of Interstellar. This story needed more of an epilogue than a voiceover and on-screen titles.
The chemistry between Williams and Schoenaerts is very good and they keep things admirably low-key. As for Scott-Thomas, well, it's another masterclass as a woman whose heartstrings are still in working order, despite the blocks of ice between them. You'll find your own tugged in many a scene here - that must-read list now has another book.