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Modernity and faith clash in "The Innocents," a fact-based drama about a young doctor asked to assist an order of nuns.

It's December 1945, and Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laâge) is a doctor assigned to a French Red Cross mission in Warsaw, tending to wounded French soldiers and a stream of refugees. One day, a nun from a nearby cloister asks for Mathilde's help, delivering a baby to a woman taken into the abbey. Mathilde does, then learns from the Mother Superior (Agata Kuleska) and her French-speaking aide, Sister Maria (Agata Buzek), the horrifying truth: The woman is one of the novices, and six more nuns are pregnant, after a Russian military unit occupied the abbey and raped many of them. The Mother Superior fears the order will be banished if word got out, and she swears Mathilde to secrecy as she helps the pregnant nuns.

Director Anne Fontaine ("Coco Before Chanel") and a team of writers find in this true story a touching, sometimes harrowing examination of faith under pressure, as the agnostic Mathilde tries to reconcile the sisters' faith with the horrors they have experienced.

It's not a perfectly told tale, and the final half-hour succumbs to overly melodramatic touches, but the strong performances — particularly by de Laâge and by Kuleska (who starred in the Oscar-winning "Ida") — make "The Innocents" riveting to the final shot.

'The Innocents'

Opening Friday, Aug. 5, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including sexual assault, and for some bloody images and brief suggestive content; in French and Polish, with subtitles; 115 minutes.