Venerable filmmaker Nicole Garcia returns to the silver screen with From the Land of the Moon, an intense, profound and intimate character study that takes a candid exploration into the fragile mind of our protagonist.
Set in the 1950s, Marion Cotillard takes on the role of Gabrielle Rabascal, considered insane from those around her, including her parents, who wilfully encourage her to marry Spanish farmworker José (Alex Brendemuhl). Stating from the offset that she has no intention of ever loving her new husband, Gabrielle is eventually sent to a rehabilitation clinic in the Alps to help treat her kidney stones. It’s here she discovers the sensation of real love, as she falls for fellow patient, the lieutenant André Sauvage (Louis Garrel), with dreams of abandoning her loveless, isolated existence and starting afresh with the injured army veteran.
When dealing with a film that lingers tirelessly on the mental state of the lead role, it’s imperative we feel something for them, and with Gabrielle that’s something of a given. She’s a gloriously flawed character, who you feel as though you know so intimately. And yet in spite of that you never quite understand what’s going on inside her mind, while always embracing her quirks and imperfections. It’s a role that few actresses could bring to life quite like Cotillard manages, and she’s shown before she can take on nuanced roles of this nature. Though somewhat more understated in Two Days, One Night, this turn is no less subtle, equally as effective in portraying a character so emotionally volatile, suffering from depression, and this instance, oppression too.
Though sadly this is a case of a performance being better than the film itself, as one that is all too repetitive, with a narrative that is unsatisfying in its progression. We learn early that Gabrielle is not very well, overwhelmed by sexual desire and the repression she faces in this tumultuous, post-WW2 setting – but from thereon lies a lack of direction as we appear to go round in circles. Perhaps this is a deliberate move form Garcia, to shadow the tedious existence of the protagonist. Or maybe, it’s just the sign of a film that’s a little bit dull.
From the Land of the Moon is released on June 9th.