Pierre Granier-Deferre's The Widow Couderc is a solid melodrama, with a lot of tension simmering just under the surface. It's greatly enhanced by the strong performances of its two leads, Simone Signoret and Alain Delon. Delon is believable as the tough, potentially dangerous Jean Lavigne, the quiet loner who takes his time sizing up the volatile situation around him, but the film belongs to Signoret as the bitter, aging abused woman who has finally taken control of her chaotic life, but risks everything for the possibility of forbidden romance. Circumstances force Lavigne to trust her, essentially, with his life, but he's not the type to resist temptation, and his attraction Félicie (Ottavia Piccolo) the seductive daughter of the widow's sneaky sister-in-law, ends up causing turmoil. Meanwhile, the rough surfaces of the mismatched couple give way to a surprising tenderness. With a strong emphasis on character development, the story builds slowly to an explosive climax. The Widow Couderc is leisurely paced, surprisingly restrained, and unequivocally French.
by Josh Ralske review