This is a gripping wartime romantic thriller from the director of Manon Des Sources starring Carole Bouquet as the eponymous French heroine, risking all to save her Resistance fighter husband, Daniel Auteuil, from the evil Gestapo butcher, Klaus Barbie.
Resistance fighter, Raymond Samuel (Auteuil) is arrested along with other members of his faction (including hero Jean 'Max' Moulin, played by Patrice Chereau) after their meeting is raided by German soldiers. They are taken to the Gestapo headquarters run by infamous 'Butcher of Lyons', Klaus Barbie (Heino Ferch), where they are tortured and interrogated. Raymond is sentenced to death. But he and wife Lucie - codename Aubrac - (Bouquet) have made a pact that they will always be together on the 14 May, their anniversary, and she is determined to honour the oath. Carrying Raymond's child, she devises a bold scheme to spring him from the imminent execution.
The book upon which Claude Berri's film is based, Outwitting The Gestapo, was written by the real Lucie 'Aubrac' Samuel to counter claims made by defense lawyer, Jacques Verges, at Klaus Barbie's trial in 1991. He suggested that it was Raymond's betrayal of Jean Moulin that led to the Resistance leader's execution.
The Aubracs won the ensuing libel case, but the litigious affair served only to illustrate France's chequered memory of its behaviour during the Occupation. It was an extraordinary period, brimming with fear, espionage, heroes and villains - manna from heaven for a director of Berri's skill, who loads his film with pregnant glances, snatched conversations and fierce tension. However, despite the film's impeccable detail in recreating Lyons circa 1943, and the slop-bucket horror of Raymond's incarceration, Berri promoted Lucie Aubrac as a universal romance, rather than an historical document, and rightly so. Neil Norman of the Evening Standard wrote that the film is: "An unusually evocative paean to the endurance of married love,", while the Sunday Telegraph was impressed with Lucie Aubrac's, "genuine emotion, as well as thrills... living proof that you don't need $200 million worth of special effects to grip an audience."
Like its palate of blues, greys and browns, the film's acting is, "impeccably muted", according to the Sunday Times, with The Guardian singling out the performance from Chanel No 5 model Bouquet (who had replaced Juliette Binoche two weeks into production), calling her, "...magnificent, inhabiting the emotions and the costumes with perfect ease, holding back her famous beauty with such skill that she seems to be merely an attractive woman making the best of herself.'
Widescreen/ French with English subtitles