In 1950s France, Gabrielle is a passionate, free-spirited woman who is in a loveless marriage and falls for another man when she is sent away to the Alps to treat her kidney stones. Gabrielle yearns to free herself and run away with André.
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Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard) comes from a small village in the South of France, at a time when her dream of true love is considered scandalous, and even a sign of insanity. Her parents marry her to José (Alex Brendemühl), an honest and loving Spanish farm worker who they think will make a respectable woman of her. Despite José's devotion to her, Gabrielle vows that she will never love José and lives like a prisoner bound by the constraints of conventional post-World War II society until the day she is sent away to a cure in the Alps to heal her kidney stones. There she meets André Sauvage (Louis Garrel), a dashing injured veteran of the Indochinese War, who rekindles the passion buried inside her. She promises they will run away together, and André seems to share her desire. Will anyone dare rob her of her right to follow her dreams? Written by
'From the Land of the Moon' tells the tale of Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard) who develops an unfortunate - and unreciprocated - sexual obsession with her local teacher in 1950s rural France. Her mother hastily arranges for her to be married off to itinerant Spanish workman José (Alex Brendemühl), who can not even be bothered shaving for their wedding day. Gabrielle resigns herself to a loveless marriage - charging José 200 francs for sex - before she has to stay at a Swiss spa to be treated for 'stones sickness' (not, as you might think, an obsession with Mick Jagger et al, but kidney stones). At the spa she meets aristocratic soldier André (Louis Garrel), with whom she develops a deep (though, to her disappointment, platonic) relationship. But when André leaves and Gabrielle returns to José, how will her experiences have changed her?
I spent much of the film trying to work out how old Gabrielle is supposed to be: when the film opens the story suggests she is the equivalent of a sixth form student, but Cotillard, in her forties, hardly looks the part. In other respects, though, she is perfect, conveying with the minimum of fuss Gabrielle's undercurrent of frustration with her lot in life - and the look she gives the man with whom she has ended up in the film's very last shot speaks volumes. Brendemühl and Garrel are pretty much Cotillard's supporting players (after all, neither of *them* has an Oscar!) but both make the most of their parts, again without resorting to over-acting.
Subtlety is the watchword in setting the film's period, too: director Nicole Garcia choosing to express it with costumes, interior decorations and cars, rather than beating the viewer around the head with pop songs from the time as other directors might be tempted to do. There no big explosions, no screeching-wheeled car chases; this is simply a film about human emotions - and contains a twist I certainly did not see coming. Well worth a viewing.
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