Strayed (Les égarés) ~ (France, 2003) ~ DVD

Andre Techine’s Strayed is one of those films that just miss the mark. It has its problems,  and could have been a much better film.  The lovely Emmanuelle Béart plays Odile, a school teacher , recently widowed, who is fleeing Paris amongst a long line of refugees, with her two children, Phillippe and Cathy. The German occupation will soon be in full swing. When the convoy of refugees is first strafed by machine gun fire, then bombed, many people are killed. The car they have been driving is destroyed as they flee into the woods, aided by a stranger that helps save them from even more disaster.

The four find a large house that has been closed up by the owners. Wary of 17-year old Yvan at first, Odile realizes they need him. He puts food on the table. They are far removed from the war, in an idyllic setting. Yvan seems older than his years and seems to take charge, yet he’s illiterate and childlike in many ways. Here, the woman is the domestic in charge and the man is the hunter-gatherer. I want to say that there is a growing sexual tension between Odile and Yvan, but that would be to give the director too much credit for teasing this out. When the two come together, it seems sudden and unexpected. I don’t think we were properly prepared. Yvan is nervous, telling Odile that he’s never seen a woman’s body before. He’s worried about prematurely ejaculating and finally turns her over to take her from behind (“it’s the only way he’s ever known”).

His buzz cut and this sexual reference ought to give you an idea of where he’s come from, and a glimpse into his past. But I’ll let the film’s denouement (if you see it) cover that ground.

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