[Screen It]


(2001) (Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate Moderate Extreme Moderate Heavy
Minor None Minor None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Heavy Mild Mild Heavy Extreme

Subtitled Drama: As the residents and politicians of a small French island await the arrival of a guillotine so that they can execute a condemned murderer, they begin to know and like the man, eventually growing to think that perhaps he shouldn't be put to death.
It's the mid 19th century on the remote island of Saint-Pierre, a French controlled territory off the coast of Newfoundland. While in a drunken stupor, a simple laborer, Neel Auguste (EMIR KUSTURICA), and his friend, Louis Ollivier (REYNALD BOUCHARD), end up killing a respected captain. While his friend is sentenced to a life of hard manual labor, Auguste is sentenced to die via beheading for being the main culprit.

The only problem is, Saint-Pierre has neither an executioner nor a guillotine, also known as "the widow," a point that the island's Governor (MICHEL DUCHAUSSOY) finds distressing. When Ollivier is killed in a freak accident, Auguste is placed under the watch of Jean (DANIEL AUTEUIL), a French military captain, who's been stationed on the island with his wife, Pauline (JULIETTE BINOCHE), locally known as "Madame La."

Jean and Pauline greatly love, respect and admire each other, so when she asks him to allow the condemned man to help with her garden and build a greenhouse, Jean happily obliges, particularly when he senses that Auguste isn't a natural born killer. This, of course, stirs up controversy among the island's inhabitants and rulers, but Jean sticks by his beliefs and doesn't back down to the demands that the prisoner be kept locked up until the guillotine arrives.

As the months pass, a unique bond develops between Auguste and the married couple, and he soon wins over much of the townsfolk, particularly after making a heroic rescue. Yet, as the guillotine finally begins its seaward trip toward Saint-Pierre, the Governor and his cronies wish to carry out the execution, saying that they're simply following the law. Although they lack an executioner and no one on the island will fill the position, they eventually coerce a new immigrant, Chevassus (GHYSLAIN TREMBLAY), to take the post.

With time seemingly running out for August who's unwillingly to flee and instead seems prepared to pay his penance, Jean, Pauline and others clash with the island's rulers about what will happen to the prisoner once the guillotine finally arrives on Saint-Pierre.

Unless they're fans of romantic drama period pieces, French films or someone in the cast, it's not very likely.
For a scene of sexuality and brief violence.
  • JULIETTE BINOCHE plays the compassionate wife of the officer placed in charge of a condemned man. She eventually convinces him to allow her to work with the man and soon realizes that he's no longer the same man who drunkenly murdered another person. She then urges him to escape, but he doesn't.
  • DANIEL AUTEUIL plays the proper but somewhat aloof military officer who's been put in charge of holding a condemned man prisoner until a guillotine arrives on the island to execute him. He controversially gives the prisoner a great deal of leeway, eventually drawing the wrath of the local politicians. He smokes a few times.
  • EMIR KUSTURICA plays the condemned prisoner whose otherwise gentle demeanor belies the fact that he drunkenly killed a man. He eventually wins over the townspeople and puts Jean, his wife and the politicians in a tough situation of trying to decide the proper course of action considering his fate.
  • MICHEL DUCHAUSSOY plays the local Governor who's determined not to allow his municipality to become the laughing stock of France for failing to execute a condemned prisoner, regardless of whether he's changed or not.
  • GHYSLAIN TREMBLAY plays an immigrant to the island who's coerced into accepting the role of executioner lest he and his family be turned away.


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.

    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).

    Here's a quick summary of the content found in this R-rated drama. Violence is listed as extreme due to four deaths (one by stabbing, another by accidentally striking one's head on a rock, and two by execution including a beheading by guillotine and being shot by a firing squad). Some of that violence is bloody (although the beheading is not seen in full) and some of it may be unsettling or tense for some viewers.

    A sexual encounter between a married couple is briefly seen (with movement and some nudity), while some other less explicit fooling around also occurs, as does some brief, sexually related dialogue (in French with English subtitles). Profanity (occurring the same way) consists of at least 1 "s" word and various other milder expletives, while a few colorful phrases are also present.

    Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, while some smoke and drink, with one drunken encounter leading to a murder. Beyond that, some tense family moments involve wives dealing with their husbands' deaths, while there's the thematic element of capital punishment. While it's not very likely that many kids will want to see this film, should you still be concerned about its appropriateness for anyone in your home, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed content listings for more specific information about what occurs in the film.

  • Various men drink in a pub, including Auguste and his friend, Ollivier, who are somewhat intoxicated, a mental and physical condition that partially leads to them later murdering another man.
  • Some men drink in a pub.
  • The Governor pours himself some port.
  • Various men drink at a social gathering.
  • The Governor and Jean have some port.
  • Various men drink at a social gathering again.
  • People have wine with dinner.
  • Auguste has wine with his meal.
  • The Governor has wine with his picnic meal.
  • We see various shots of fish being gutted and sliced open on a fishing ship.
  • A man's head and the rock he landed on headfirst are bloody.
  • A man's shirt is bloody after he's been shot several times.
  • Auguste obviously has both, first for drunkenly making fun of a man, and then for killing him in the same intoxicated state. Louis also has both for being his accomplice and holding the victim while he was being stabbed.
  • Various bystanders throw rocks at the prisoners, resulting in the accidental death of one of the prisoners.
  • Various people of high society gossip about Madame La throughout the film.
  • The Governor and others put pressure on a new immigrant to take the position of local executioner or else be deported, and then set out to undermine Jean's reputation so that they can have their way with the prisoner under his care.
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may also be tense or unsettling to some viewers.
  • While the townspeople transport a building through town, the ropes holding it suddenly break and the structure goes rolling down a hill out of control, with a woman holding onto the front of it. Auguste races to save her and stop the house, which he eventually does.
  • Two scenes where people are executed - one by guillotine, the other by firing squad - might be tense and/or unsettling to some viewers.
  • Rifles: Carried by guards and later used to shoot a man to death via an official firing squad.
  • Knife: Used by Auguste to stab a man to death while drunk.
  • Swords: Briefly used by some guards/soldiers to come at Auguste.
  • Guillotine: Used to behead a man in an official act.
  • All of the following occurs in French with English subtitles: Phrases: "Pain in the ass," "Bastards," "Screwing" (sexual), "Idiot" and "Shut up."
  • None.
  • A tiny bit of such music plays in a few scenes.
  • None.
  • All of the following occurs in French with English subtitles: At least 1 "s" word, 1 slang term for sex ("screwing"), 5 damns, 1 ass, 1 hell, 2 uses of "Good Lord" and 1 use each of "Christ" and "Lord" as exclamations.
  • Jean and Madame La briefly make out while lying (clothed) on the ground and he briefly rolls on top of her while doing so.
  • Jean runs his hands along Madame La's clothed breasts while standing behind her and they then passionately kiss while still standing. Later, and while sitting on the floor, he kisses her bare back after lowering the strap of her top off her shoulder (but we don't see anything else happen).
  • The governor talks to Jean about Auguste and his wife and the prisoner "being in" the wife's skirt.
  • Madame La walks in to find Auguste and a woman (whose roof he's fixed) fooling around behind a drawn sheet. We don't see anything, but it's obvious they were doing something behind it.
  • From a bit of a distance, we see Jean and his wife having sex and passionately kissing, with his bare butt visible between her legs as they roll around/move on the bed (we also hear sexual sounds). They alternate positions (of being on top) and we see the tops of her bare breasts in the head and shoulders shot that then follows (and suggests/partially shows movement).
  • Some people gossip about the effect Auguste has had on Madame La's love life with Jean. One woman then states something about Jean cuckolding their husbands without "screwing us."
  • Jean smokes several times, while various miscellaneous/background character smoke pipes and cigarettes in various scenes.
  • Several women must deal with their husband's deaths, while there's talk of many widows being on the island.
  • The sacrifice various characters make for others that turn out to be ruinous for them.
  • Capital punishment - in this case, beheading by guillotine.
  • Whether a murderer can change and if his past misdeeds should be forgiven if he seems a changed man and has won public sentiment.
  • Seen in two parts, Auguste and his friend drunkenly go to a man's house at night, joking about whether he's big or fat. That man then comes out with a knife and when we next revisit the scene, we see Louis holding the man while Auguste repeatedly stabs him in the gut with it (we don't see the actual graphic penetration or any blood).
  • As Auguste and Louis are carted away to prison, various bystanders begin throwing rocks at them. The rocks, of course, hit the cart and the horse pulling it, causing the horse to gallop away, eventually resulting in the cart overturning and spilling its occupants. Among them, Louis land head first on a rock, and instantly dies.
  • Seeing Auguste out of confinement and shoveling some snow, two guards/soldiers confront him, with one coming at him with his sword. Auguste defends himself with his shovel, knocking the sword aside. The other then comes at him, but Jean comes upon the scene and knocks that man from his horse and to the ground.
  • A person is beheaded with a guillotine (we don't see the actual impact or the results, but do hear that the blade was rusty and so an ax had to be used to finish off the victim).
  • A person is shot to death via a firing squad. We don't see the impact, but do hear the shots and then see a shot of the person, with a bloody shirt, falling to the ground.

  • Reviewed March 23, 2001 / Posted April 13, 2001

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [The Batman] [Cyrano] [Studio 666] [The Cursed] [Dog] [Uncharted]

    Privacy Statement and Terms of Use and Disclaimer
    By entering this site you acknowledge to having read and agreed to the above conditions.

    All Rights Reserved,
    ©1996-2022 Screen It, Inc.