In the wake of World War I, Dellaplane (Noiret) is a French army major charged with determining the identities of 350,000 soldiers wounded or killed in battle. Consumed by this daunting task, he is cynical about the government's empty gesture of memorializing the unknown by burying one unclaimed body under the Arc du Triomphe. Two women approach Dellaplane for help in locating their men: the rich, haughty Irène (Azéma), and Alice (Vignal), a gentle, modest teacher. Though he initially rebuffs their requests for special treatment, Dellaplane will come to admire their tireless efforts to learn the fates of their loved ones.
This poignant drama depicts the immense human toll and suffering involved in healing the scars of war. Tavernier's characteristically assured visual style is complemented by the actors' outstanding performances, with Noiret's gruff, measured turn counterbalancing the more fiery Azéma. Well deserving of wins at both the BAFTA and César award ceremonies, this haunting, intelligent film will stick with you long after the lights come up.