MAY 25, 2018 -- Xavier Beauvois ("Of Gods and Men" and "Le Petit Lieutenant") examines the women of World War I France who took over the jobs left behind by the men. In particular the farm of Hortense Sandrail (Nathalie Baye) whose two sons and son-in-law are off to war leaving her shorthanded with only her daughter Solange (Laura Smet)


At the urging of her eldest son Constant (Nicolas Giraud) she hires an extra hand to help around the house and in the field - Francine (Iris Bry) - a 20-year old who grew up in an orphanage but is quite becoming. She came well recommended and turns out to be a great worker.

Things get interesting when her youngest son Georges (Cyril Descours) gets smitten with Francine while on leave. Then Solange gets friendly with American soldiers after her husband Clovis (Olivier Rabourdin) gets taken prisoner by the Germans. Rumors abound and Hortense gets defensive protecting her family from small town rumors.


Beauvois is a master of showcasing French landscape and highlights the growing strength of the women and the frailties of the men - especially when the American soldiers pass through France. Tension and competition is everywhere; between the French men and American men for the women and between women for the attention of Georges.


The story leaves a few things unanswered such as why Hortense's husband Henri (Gilbert) has little to no say in the operation of the family nor the farm; he's left as a dangling character. And the film is not quite clear on the relationship between Georges and Marguerite (Mathilde Viseux) who appears to be his sister.


The examination of the empowerment of the women once they got machines to help with the land is excellent as is the rigor of being the family matriarch that Baye portrays.


"The Guardians" (Les Gardiennes) works well, especially at this time of women empowerment. Great performances and typically good cinematography by director Xavier Beauvois makes it easy to overlook the minor glitches.   -- GRADE B --   GEOFF BURTON