aka Aftermath and Afterbirth. C’est la guerre — it’s the war. Isn’t it always? World War II is over, but the Russians made the most of their march toward Berlin, with one batch stopping off for a three-day rapefest at a Polish Benedictine convent. Multiple pregnancies ensued (plus at least one case of significant syphilis), and so at the film’s outset, one enterprising novice slips through a crack in the convent wall to beg help from a French Red Cross worker (Lou de Laâge). The exquisite, unearthly chanted prayer of the nuns endures, but now it’s set against an array of anguished and very earthly cries: from the laboring, the grieving, and the newly born. The struggles that ensue — between spirit and flesh, faith and doubt, vows and obligations — are as muted as the blue-gray, wintry environs, but that doesn’t make them any less deeply felt. Director and co-writer Anne Fontaine makes every shot and every exchange count in her tender but penetrating exploration of sisterhood in a brutal world. (2016) — Matthew Lickona
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