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Charlotte Gray (2001, Cate Blanchett, Michael Gambon)

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During the Second World War, young Scot Charlotte Gray (Cate Blanchett) begins an affair with RAF officer Peter Gregory (Rupert Penry-Jones). When he disappears over France, presumed dead, Gray is enlisted to spearhead a spying mission in Vichy France, using the skills of the Resistance fighters. Disguised as a local, Gray is parachuted onto a remote farm under the control of Julien Levade (Billy Crudup). The pair develop an uneasy friendship.

When two local Jews are removed by the Nazis, their sons are smuggled to safety at the farm. Soon after, Charlotte is late for a Resistance meeting which turns into a massacre when the Germans stage an ambush. Levade is convinced that Gray is a traitor, but in reality the local schoolteacher, Renech (Anton Lesser) is guilty, and when Gray spurns his advances he decides the persecution must continue, and she must be next for re-education…

‘Nobody complained that Mrs Miniver was far-fetched,’ said one reviewer, comparing Gillian Armstrong’s adaptation with Greer Garson’s famously successful slice of wartime propaganda. The analogy is a compliment, for while today’s audiences are more sophisticated then those of 1942, Armstrong is right to surmise that, ‘why you can see Macbeth time and again is because [such stories] are about an essential human truth. If they’re well told they touch people no matter when they are set.’

The grand emotional sweep of the film also helps disguise its minor problems, including Blanchett’s wayward accent and some unresolved issues of plot and motivation. But Faulks’ novel otherwise holds up well, and both Crudup and Gambon bring an intense dignity to their roles which perhaps offers the best explanation as to why woman like Charlotte and men like the Levades decided to make a stand against tyranny in the first place.

production details
UK / 121 minutes / 2001

Director: Gillian Armstrong
Writers: Jeremy Brock (from the novel by Sebastian Faulks),

cast
Cate Blanchett as Charlotte Gray
James Fleet as Richard Cannerly
Charlotte McDougall as Sally
Rupert Penry-Jones as Peter Gregory
Robert Hands as Borowski
Charlie Condou as Auguste
Tom Goodman-Hill as Business man at the party
Michael Gambon as Levade
Ron Cook as Mirabel
Erich Redman as German Corporal
John Pierce Jones as Monsieur Monceau
Angus Wright as Agent
Billy Crudup as Julien Levade
Abigail Cruttenden as Daisy
Hugh Ross as Psychiatrist
John Benfield as Loque
Helen McCrory as Francoise
Anton Lesser as Renech
Nicholas Farrell as Mr. Jackson
Jack Shepherd as Pichon

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