DRAMA; 1hr 48min (French with subtitles)
STARRING: Lambert Wilson, Isabel Carré
Table manners: from left, Hudson and Wilson
The General Charles de Gaulle (The Translators’ Wilson) of director Gabriel Le Bomin’s stately drama is sternness personified. You’d want him in your corner, and corners don’t come any tighter than La France of May 1940. Even with 60,000 French soldiers dead and the German army creaming the remaining battlers at every turn, unlike his crusty colleagues the General's priority is pressing on. “To be passive is to be defeated,” he writes to his rock-ribbed wife of 20 years, Yvonne (Carré), to whom this would hardly be news.
De Gaulle’s collaborators don’t see it that way, dismissing him as a warmongering self-promoter. Back-room back-stabbing was always ever thus, but while the strategists bicker and pontificate, Hitler’s forces are hard at work, creeping closer with chilling intent. De Gaulle, undaunted, takes his militaristic self to London to plead his country’s case to huff-puffing PM Winston Churchill (Tim Hudson), on whose air force and navy he has his eagle eye.
While leaning hard on the workhorse angle, Le Bomin is also keen to humanise de Gaulle as a family man, devoted to Yvonne and their children. Yet even when kicking back he’s hardly Monsieur Nonchalance (this, remember, is a man who wears a suit to the beach). He lives and breathes as a fighter, whether for his Down syndrome–afflicted young daughter or for his crumbling Republic, its defeatist officials be damned.
The policy wonks are a stuffy lot — regrettably, too, since they take up a lot of space. Still, you’ve got to give it up for de Gaulle’s can-do spirit. Even when on the ropes with Yvonne God-knows-where and France in chaos, he stubbornly refuses to say die. History has vindicated his persistence. But the road to glory is a long and heavy ride.