Although it's set against the historical backdrop of the Fall of France in the summer of 1940, veteran writer/director Andre Techine's Strayed is very much an intimate film, exploring human relationships being redefined in exceptional circumstances. Emmanuelle Béart plays Odile, a widowed mother of two young children, who shelters with a itinerant teenager Yvan (Gaspar Ulliel) at an abandoned rural house. Lushly photographed by cinematographer Agnes Godard, and impressively acted, it's an assured work whose screenplay takes some unexpected paths.
After a terrifyingly realistic early sequence, in which their refugee column is strafed by Stuka bombers - an attack which emphasises the randomness of survival in wartime - Odile and her family take refuge in a nearby forest, and Strayed begins to acquire a fairytale-like dimension. It's here they encounter Ulliel, the mysterious shaven-haired orphan, who has the skills to survive in the countryside. The quartet break into a secluded dwelling, where symbolically the clocks have stopped, and where during the following sun-drenched days the schoolteacher Odile's authority steadily weakens.
"UNDENIABLE SEXUAL TENSION"
In the absence of a father figure, Techine examines how in such a period of upheaval, the lines between adults and children became blurred. Why should Odile's offspring obey her instructions, when it's the tearaway Yvan, who is putting food on all their plates through his poaching and looting? And how should she deal with the undeniable sexual tension that develops between her and this wild child figure? Skilfully incorporating period newsreel footage into his storytelling, Techine elicits from Béart one of her best performances for many years. She excels as a woman cut adrift from her familiar physical and emotional bearings and reveals a moving vulnerability.
In French with English subtitles.