France/Poland, 2016, 115 min, 2K DCP, Dir. Anne Fontaine, Rated PG-13, French & Polish with English subtitles, Music Box Films
"What the picture leaves us with is a fresh understanding of our capacity to respond to suffering with good or evil, and to find new definitions of grace and vocation." - Justin Chang, Variety
Warsaw, December 1945: the second World War is finally over and Mathilde (Lou de Laâge, Breathe) is treating the last of the French survivors of the German camps. When a panicked Benedictine nun (Agata Buzek) appears at the clinic one night begging Mathilde to follow her back to the convent, what she finds there is shocking: a holy sister about to give birth and several more in advanced stages of pregnancy. A non-believer, Mathilde enters the sisters' fiercely private world, dictated by the rituals of their order and the strict Rev. Mother (Agata Kulesza, Ida). Fearing the shame of exposure and the hostility of the new anti-Catholic Communist government, the nuns increasingly turn to Mathilde as their belief and traditions clash with harsh realities. Hope and consternation are commingled to quietly moving effect in The Innocents, a restrained but cumulatively powerful French-Polish drama about the various crises of faith that emerge when a house of God is ravaged by war. Based on the little-known case of French Red Cross Doctor Madeleine Pauliac and the convent to which she ministered after WWII, director Anne Fontaine's finest film is notable for the tact, intelligence and fine-grained character detail with which it examines every moral crevice of an unthinkable scenario. Following its world premiere at Sundance, there was consensus: The Innocents will be heard from come award season at year's end.