Directed by Gillian Armstrong.  UK. 2001.

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Lets start by saying Charlotte Gray is a great film. From the opening shot of Charlotte Gray travelling on a train through the lush British countryside you are quickly drawn into a story of love, courage and drama set in World War Two.

There are hundreds of WWII movies but this one stands out because it has a female as the main protagonist and it is more interested in how the war influences the lives of ‘ordinary’ people rather than in the heroics of action men.

Chalotte Gray. All Rights Reserved.Charlotte (Cate Blanchett) is parachuted into occupied France to act as a courier. Her own agenda is to find her lover, an RAF pilot, who has been shot down in the same region. She soon becomes involved with Julien (Billy Crudup) a young idealistic Resistance fighter, and she is sheltered by his father (Michael Gambon).

Chalotte Gray. All Rights Reserved.From the time she lands in France there is a constant sense of danger, and her mission soon goes off course. Her constantly moaning British contact is untrustworthy, and she becomes entangled in the arguments between Julien and his Father. More poignant is the sub-plot about the two Jewish boys whose parents have been whisked away by the Nazis in the middle of the night. By protecting them Julien is blackmailed into getting his Father arrested. Then Julien and Charlotte have the pain of seeing the Father and the boys being sent off in a train - no doubt to a Death Camp. The letter read by Gambon to the boys is one of those Kleenex moments that for me overshadows Charlotte’s love story.

Gillian Armstrong’s adaptation of Sebastian Faulks best-selling novel shows a talent comparable to David Lean or Steven Spielberg at their best. Indeed, I was far more impressed by Charlotte Gray than Speilberg’s Saving Private Ryan. Certainly Spielberg showed his ability to orchestrate great battle sequences but the story is weak and, surprisingly for one of his productions, you never get emotionally engaged with the characters in the same manner as you do with Charlotte Gray.

Available to buy on video or DVD from 7 October 2002. 

Nigel Watson
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