In 1920 in Northern France, haute Parisienne Irène (Azéma) and local teacher Alice (Vignal) search, respectively, for the husband and fiancé they have lost in the war. They find themselves thrown on the mercy of the head of the Missing in Action office, Major Dellaplane (Noiret), whose unending efforts to identify the countless dead, shell-shocked and missing are continually being diverted by a military establishment bent on glorifying French courage with a funeral ceremony for the Unknown Soldier. The film focuses on the way these three interact, but in so doing, broaches bureaucratic hypocrisy and corruption, post-war poverty and racism, social inequality and the deceptions of romantic involvement. But it's Tavernier's careful orchestration of his medium that most expressively colours the motifs of solitude, grief and loss. Subtle, fluid camera movements explore grey fields and stark, impeccably designed sets to supply a palpable sense of time and place; unsentimental yet dignified performances (with Noiret outstanding in his hundredth film role) underline the discreet humanism of Tavernier's approach.