Friday, July 2, 2004; Page WE42
STRAYED (Unrated, 93 minutes)
French filmmaker Andre Techine's movie is a wartime film about desperate times, but it's rendered with such pastoral sunniness, there's a peculiar disconnect. Emmanuelle Beart plays Odile, who, when the Nazis start bombing Paris in 1940, retreats with her two children into the French countryside. Odile and her children run into Yvan (Gaspard Ulliel), a 17-year-old who has survival skills, not to mention weaponry, and some odd traits. An apparent narcoleptic, he tumbles into sleep without warning. He leads them to an abandoned country home, where they set up camp. It isn't long before they become an oddly functioning family, with Yvan as the hunter-gatherer. Odile's fatherless children, 13-year-old Philippe (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet) and 7-year-old Cathy (Clemence Meyer), soon become taken with this fiercely independent boy. He clearly fills a paternal absence in their lives. But despite undeniable attraction building inside her, the thirtyish Odile remains resistant to Yvan. She's suspicious about this survivor and his agenda, particularly in a climate of war and collaboration. At least, for a while. Unfortunately, her dilemma -- whether or not a bourgeois schoolteacher will succumb to an earthy, working-class young man -- isn't too much of a narrative cliffhanger. There are tensions under the surface, particularly to do with Yvan's true motives. But Techine doesn't reap the buildup. Nor does he produce the same jagged sensuality he did in the remarkable "Wild Reeds." Instead, he creates a picture-book French film that's pretty and trite, rather than edgy and moving. Contains sexual scenes and wartime violence. In French with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.
-- Desson Thomson
© 2004 The Washington Post Company