From the Land of the Moon – Film Review by Frank L
Director: Nicole Garcia
Writers: Milena Agus (based on the novel by), Natalie Carter (collaboration)
Stars: Marion Cotillard, Louis Garrel, Alex Brendemühl
Gabriele (Marion Cotillard) is a rebellious and tempestuous daughter of a bourgeois lavender farmer in Provence. She resents her dull existence. Her mother determines that a veteran of the Spanish Civil War José Rabascal (Alex Brendemühl), who is working on the lavender farm, will provide as a husband the necessary masculine hormones to sort her out. It is a loveless relationship but it produces a son, Marc, who is a gifted young piano player. In fact, when Rabascal is driving Gabriele and Marc to a piano competition in Lyon, they are caught in a traffic jam which enables Gabriele to see the name of a street. It is the street where one André Sauvage (Louis Garrel) lived, whom she had come to love when they both were patients in a swish Alpine clinic dealing with their respective maladies. Her problem was kidney stones. His was a veteran of the Indochina conflict and was suffering the after-effects, which had left him languid, listless and with a limp but undoubtedly handsome. In a series of flashbacks, the story moves from Provence, to la Ciotat a coastal town where the long suffering Rabascal builds a family home for Gabriele, then to the Swiss clinic and finally back to Lyon.
Cotillard’s performance as Gabriele dominates and it is impressive. Sauvage, notwithstanding his name, is an exhausted figure who may have been before his military exertions, a man of action, but is by the time Gabriele meets him in the clinic a figure whose best days are behind him. However he awakens within Gabriele the hormones which the apparently far more virile Jose was never able to do. It all moves along at a pedestrian pace and what makes the story almost credible is the knowledge that the course of “true love” is indeed mysterious.
Cotillard has had a hugely impressive career to date, and has starred in La Vie en Rose as Edith Piaf and more recently as Lady Macbeth opposite Michael Fassbender. For Cotillard fans, this is another demonstration of her skills and therefore worth seeing. However, it is asking a lot of her to carry a story which is less than attention grabbing. If you are entranced by Cotillard, then you may be swept along. The rest of us will look for something with a bit more substance.