“Faith is 24 hours of doubt and one minute of hope.”
This honest description comes from a woman wracked with trauma and hiding in secrecy — from a nun, in fact. Director Anna Fontaine’s THE INNOCENTS explores a too-real, overwhelmingly solemn experience, based on real events, which hope to remind us of the truth behind this statement.
Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laâge) is a young doctor working for the French Red Cross in Poland, 1945. When a nun comes to the door of a survivor camp at the end of the war, Mathilde discovers a world constructed by nightmares: in the nearby convent, several nuns are in advanced stages of pregnancy, a result of a night in which German soldiers attacked the convent 9 months previous. Mathilde agrees to help the nuns in birthing the babies, and to keep their secret.
What an emotionally brutal, complex story to bring to the big screen, and yet it is handled with such sensitivity. The plot unfolds with as much prudence as can be hoped for, not forceful in its procedure but simply allowing the audience to uncover the horror of the situation themselves. Fontaine gives a devastating look at the inner turmoil of these nuns as they struggle with their faith and outward perception, not to mention PTSD from the rapes, throughout the film.
De Laâge shines in her performance, serving as the surrogate for the audience while simultaneously tackling her own arc. Agata Buzek and Agata Kulesza (who we’ve recently seen in last year’s IDA) give beautiful performances as well, handling their characters’ circumstances with great delicacy.
This is a film you won’t want to miss. THE INNOCENTS is now playing at Midtown Cinema!