Passchendaele (15)

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The Independent Culture

The name of this small Belgian village is synonymous with one of the most horrific attritional campaigns of the First World War.

The writer-director Paul Gross's old-fashioned drama recasts it as a tribute to the thousands of Canadian soldiers who died there. Gross himself stars as Sgt Michael Dunne, wounded in battle and invalided back home to Calgary; there he falls for a nurse, Sarah Mann (Caroline Dhavernas), whose mixed lineage foments a bitter conflict with the more jingoistic locals and puts her young brother in peril. For most of its length the film keeps to the home front, saving its dramatic switch to the Western Front for the final reel, by which point the plot has nailed its rather novelettish colours to the mast. The performances are altogether superior.