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The Guardians

Les Gardiennes

A superbly involving French rural drama from Xavier Beauvois, with Nathalie Baye magnificent as a matriarch struggling to run the land when war breaks out.


Dir Xavier Beauvois
Prod Sylvie Pialat, Benoit Quainon
Scr Xavier Beauvois, Frédérique Moreau, Marie-Julie Maille
With Nathalie Baye, Laura Smet, Iris Bry
Sales Pathé International

Xavier Beauvois reveals the heroic struggles of women on the rural home front in First World War France, in a gripping, terrifically acted ensemble drama. With Of Gods and Men (LFF2010), erstwhile enfant terrible director Xavier Beauvois came of age as a powerful storyteller in a classic French tradition. He explores that mode further with a film that rediscovers a 1924 novel by the once-celebrated Ernest Pérochon. The ‘gardiennes’ of the title are the women who roll up their sleeves to take charge of the land when war breaks out. Nathalie Baye, in the role of a lifetime, is utterly commanding as Hortense, the matriarch who will do anything to ensure that family and farm survive, as the men of the family make intermittent returns from the front, and the arrival of American troops brings its own unrest. Caroline Champetier’s magnificent landscape photography brings an elemental touch to the realism, while a superb support cast mixes known names (notably Baye’s real-life daughter Laura Smet) and non-professionals, including terrific 78-year-old debut actor Gilbert Bonneau. Another revelation is radiant newcomer Iris Bry, who plays Francine, her personal drama carrying an emotional heft that gives The Guardians the intensity of French-style Thomas Hardy.

Jonathan Romney

Additional information

The introduction/Q&A will be BSL interpreted at the screening on Sat 7 Oct.

Festival guests

These members of the filmmaking team are expected to attend the festival:

  • Xavier Beauvois, Director; Laura Smet, Cast

See the full list of visiting festival guests. Please note that we can't guarantee guest attendance at any particular screening.

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