The Sower (Le Semeur) (2017): 7 out of 10: A Quiet bucolic French version of The Bequiled except with a lot less turtle murder and… well honestly it is nothing like The Bequiled and whoever wrote that blurb should be sent to the guillotine. (This being a French film and all). Okay, so it is the reign of Napoleon III (A fact American audiences may be immediately confused by because they may not realise that there was more than one Napoleon. He is the Cinco de Mayo Napoleon. You know the guy who ran Mexico.)
Okay, I see a hand up in the back. Yes, the French ran Mexico. Who else would run Mexico? Look, Cinco de Mayo marks the unlikely defeat of elite French forces by an under-manned Mexican army in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. In fact, this underdog Mexican victory may have played a part in preventing French Emperor Napoleon III from helping the Confederacy win the American Civil War. See, easy as pie.
So what have we learned so far besides we can add Mexico to the list of countries France has lost a war to? Well, Napoleon the 3rd has dissolved the republic in France and is rounding up all the republicans like a snail eating Erdoğan. In a small bucolic and picturesque French village located in the foothills of the French Alps, all the men are taken away by Napoleon III’s forces with one of them killed during the action. This leaves an isolated village with just the women and children.
The unmarried young girls of the village, after a while, make a pact that if a man stumbles upon their village, they will all share him for baby-making and other tasks. And a travelling blacksmith comes upon the village and our plot starts… about twenty-five minutes into the runtime.
The Good: You know, sometimes my wife doesn’t want to see a film with the word alligator, toxic waste, or camp counselor in the description field. Sometimes a quiet romantic drama with pretty scenery and pretty people is just what the film critic ordered. As these films go, The Sower is a pleasant film that does not overstay its welcome.
There is some tension in the story (of course) but it is of the very low key variety. Will the virgin Violette (Pauline Burlet) be able to seduce the stranger (Alban Lenoir) so he stays? Will she agree to share him as the pact dictates? Will he agree to such a scheme? What happens if the men from the village come back?
The film is told with the pacing and structure of a fable. Which, in essence, it is. Pauline Burlet’s resemblance to Emma Watson, the fact that the movie revolves around a bucolic French village where only one girl can read (And whose father has disappeared) makes for a strange Beauty and the Beast feeling to some of the proceedings.
The way the women of the village come together as a collective is actually the strongest part of the film. While they want their men back (or any man in some cases) they have remarkable support structure and survival instincts without the men there. If the wandering blacksmith never arrived, honestly, the film would still work.
The Bad: Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but more of a setting of expectations. This is a romantic drama. This is not an erotic fantasy romp. There is some nudity (It is a French film after all) but there is very little erotic or titillating content considering the premise.
The Ugly: Director Marine Francen purposely filmed the movie in a 4:3 ratio because… I do not understand? To make the village seem smaller, maybe? This is a beautiful film, with gorgeous scenery and pretty people. Why would you film a movie at the foothills of the French Alps in the old TV ratio on purpose? A movie that will never be seen on a 4:3 device. The mind boggles.
In conclusion: I am more like the Sir Galahad character from Monty Python and the Holy Grail when confronted with the challenge our wandering blacksmith is given. Not that he isn’t up to the task, mind you.
This is a slight film. It is relaxing and deliberately paced. I can see people enjoying this movie, especially as a change of pace from more intense fare. I don’t see many people seeing it more than once or putting it on a personal top ten list. Pleasant isn’t a negative trait. The Sower is, if nothing else, very pleasant.