In pre-World War II France, a father is torn between his sense of honor and his deep love for his saintly daughter when she gets in trouble with the wealthy son of a shopkeeper.
I was a bit leery before I watched 'The Well-Digger's Daughter,' as the title alone didn't do much for me and frankly, with the film being set in rural France in the early 19th century, I thought I was in for a long and dull story. I couldn't be more wrong. Daniel Auteuil's revamp of the novel is a multi-layered and entertaining story of love, class, and honor at the start of WWI. I was pleasantly surprised by all aspects of the movie.
One particular aspect I really loved was its old fashioned story telling. It really was a breath of fresh air from the modern way of doing things in films. Auteuil tells a perfect story with great characters who show a full range of emotions where with each character you will in turn feel a full range of emotions for. That's something that is very rare these days. Auteuil pulls double duty as director and actor, which I knew I'd seen him before, but couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then I figured it out, Auteuil was in the creepy film 'Cache.' Here, he plays a much different character.
Auteuil plays Pascal Amoretti, the well-digger from the title, a hard working man in southern France whose wife recently passed away, leaving him to take care of his six daughters all by himself. The story primarily focuses on the second oldest daughter, the 18-year-old Patricia (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) who was sent off to live with a wealthy woman who taught her the cultures of the world and how to be a lady. Now that Patricia has returned home, she feels out of place in the dull and rustic landscape.
Pascal's employee, Philipe (Kad Merad) takes a liking to Patricia, and although he may be a bit older than she is, he's a good man. Pascal notices that Patricia is not too keen on staying around much longer so he gives Philipe permission to pursue his daughter in hopes that she'll stay close to home. Philipe invites Patricia to the upcoming air show, where she is reluctant to go at first, but once she hears that Jacques Mazel (Nicolas Duvauchelle) will be piloting one of the planes, she instantly changes her mind and decides to go. Patricia met the blonde haired, smooth talking, wealthy pilot earlier on as she was running errands for her father. Needless to say it was love at first sight.
Both Jacques and Patricia begin secretly meeting, which results in Patricia getting pregnant, something that was very unacceptable for those times. Adding insult to injury, Jaques is called upon to ship off to WWI and fight for this country, and doesn't even have time to say goodbye to Patricia. Before he left though, he gave his mother (Sabine Azema) a letter he had written for Patricia to deliver to her. However, his mother burns the letter, which starts a chain of tragic events.
This film couldn't have been told better. The unexpected situations really threw me for a loop. The characters have such depth that each of them show their good and bad sides through the 107 minute run-time. One of the best transformations is by Pascal, as we see him as a damaged man due to his daughter's actions, but the second he sees her baby, his grandchild, he has a change of heart and we see him stand up for her and the family's honor is restored. The acting and direction are superb. ' The Well-Digger's Daughter' is an exceptional film.
'The Well-Digger's Daughter' features a glorious 1080p HD transfer in the 1:85.1 aspect ratio. The image is true to its source material and is very sharp and bright. The movie was filmed with a 35mm camera giving everything that filmic look with a nice layer of grain and no sign of the digital noise or image blur.
The colors of the landscapes are beautiful and shine bright with the flesh tones natural and smooth. The detail is very sharp as you can make out wrinkles and threads in clothes. The blacks are deep and inky as well here. I did not notice and edge enhancement or aliasing. Kino did a great job with this video presentation.
This film comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and sounds surprisingly and strikingly good, despite being a dialogue driven film. The dialogue is crustal clear and perfectly situated on the fronts. The ambient noise, which there is plenty of sounds amazing on the surrounds. The insects, extras, and air show sounds great on the rears and come across smooth with out any hissing or cracks. The score sounds great as well and never drowns out the dialogue or ambient noises. If you are looking for big booms and bass, this is not the audio track for you, but given that this is a mostly quiet, dialogue-driven film, it is a great audio presentation.
I thoroughly enjoyed 'The Well Digger's Daughter' and recommend this to anyone. The characters and story-telling rank up there with the best in the business and a look forward to more films from Daniel Auteuil, if this is the kind of work we can expect from him. The audio and video presentations are top notch, however Kino seemed to skip out on the extras. Despite that, I am happy to have this film in my collection and you should too. Recommended.