I am Sam

Cate Blanchett and Billy Crudup.
Directed by Gillian Armstrong.
Running Time: 121 mins
Rated: M
It's 1943 and the young Scotswoman Charlotte Gray (Cate Blanchett) wants to do her bit for the war effort. After working as a clerk in a war support office she is recruited by a British Government agent for a special operation to live in France and liaise with the local French resistance groups, who are using guerrilla tactics against the occupying German Army.

Unknown to her superiors she is also searching for her lover, Peter (Rupert Penry-Jones) an English pilot missing in action after his plane was shot down over France. As Charlotte becomes more deeply involved with the resistance fighters, led by Julien Levade (Crudup), she realises that her love of France and its people will change her life forever.

There are many things to admire in Australian director Gillian Armstrong's adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' best-selling book. Her old-fashioned style here suits the mood of the piece, with some terrific photography and evocative moods. The way she marries the musical score with the pictures is particularly enjoyable.

Cate Blanchett is good, but not great and Billy Crudup fails to convince us at all that he is a subversive freedom fighter. It's all due to the script.

The story in England has a 'tally-ho' feel to it which verges on parody, and the early set-ups seem overly drawn out. When the tale moves to France, it improves dramatically, in both senses, and the film comes into its own.

There are, however, some annoying problems that distract. The first is that much is made of Charlotte's perfect French accent. Yet when we go with her to France we only hear her speak English with a Scottish accent. Furthermore, for all the talk of her blending into village life this film's costume department has her out in the village in the brightest colours of anyone there. Charlotte is a rather conspicuous spy!

In the end there are few turns in the plot which surprise or really delight us.

Richard Leonard SJ