Simmer down melodrama
FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON Directed by Nicole Garcia. Starring Marion Cotillard, Louis Garrel, Alex Brendemühl. 16 cert, limited release, 120 min
This attractive adaptation of a novella by Milena Agus stars Marion Cotillard in the tale of a woman enduring an arranged marriage towards the end of the second World War. The film strives for the three-hankie sweep of a contemporaneous Hollywood “women’s picture” and occasionally comes close to satisfying those aspirations.
From the Land of the Moon profits from a smashing central performance and from some delicious photography. But – despite the high emotion and risky reversals – it feels safe, cosy and a bit uninspiring. If belated effusions of cinéma de papa are your thing, then look no further.
Gabrielle (Cotillard) begins the film desperately in love with the local schoolmaster. When she flings herself at him in undignified fashion, we feel shame for her and concern for the gauges on our melodrama detector. Gabrielle, threatened with detention in a mental institution, is married off to José (Brendemühl), a bricklayer, by a mother who, though clearly misguided, has reason to want rid of such a loose cannon.
Heed this, reader. Gabrielle desires another. Actually, she desires another another. André (Garrel), a lieutenant in the French army, could hardly be more of an archetypal love object if he were painted on the cover of an airport romance novel. Alone and dying in the sanatorium where Gab is recovering from kidney stones, he uses what energy he retains to sigh, play the piano and simmer like a man who lives only to simmer. The romance hangs with the heroine throughout the rest of her troubled life.
From the Land of the Moon is pretty and well-appointed. It has every chance of playing well with those who equate “French” with “quality”. But it slips from the mind as soon as it ends. Still, it is worth enduring to gawp at the ludicrous twist in the tale. I verily dropped my pince-nez.