The Guardians

French filmmaker Xavier Beauvois brought an extraordinary sense of solitude and contemplation to his 2010 feature Of Gods and Men, about Trappist monks walking a fine line between selflessness and survival in war-torn Algeria. That same hush pervades this leisurely drama about a French farming family during World War I, with Nathalie Baye in a decidedly unglamorous role as the beleaguered matriarch. Her two sons and her son-in-law have all joined the army, leaving the farm understaffed; help arrives in the form of a hard-working young woman from town, but the mother turns against her after one of the sons, home on leave, falls for her. A story of women waiting for their soldiers to return, this unfolds in fairly predictable fashion, though the film’s solemnity is seductive—when Beauvois indulges in a bit of string music on the soundtrack, it seems almost extravagant. In French with subtitles.