Of course the story demands a surrealistic, wondrous approach, given the ethereal, dreamlike nature of the tale – but what can be achieved on paper does not always amount to a triumph on screen, as some things are best left to our wildest imaginations. To help bring this tale to the big screen (renamed Mood Indigo in the process), renowned French actor Romain Duris plays Colin, an affluent bachelor who spends most of his time with his friend – and chef – Nicolas (Omar Sy). His life soon becomes increasingly more exciting when he meets the beguiling, sweet-natured Chloé (Audrey Tautou), though their lives are thrown into disarray when she is diagnosed with an unusual illness caused by a flower growing inside her lungs.
To call this stylistic endeavour quirky would be a severe understatement, as Gondry has filled his picture with a series of eccentricities, that while unique and playful, grow to become incredibly nauseating and insufferable after a while. Feeling like an animation brought to life, it’s a shame this magical drama is so overbearing in its whimsicality, as the French are so skilled at turning quirkiness into a thing of ineffable beauty, like in Amélie, for instance. However this is just too forced and overpowering, and we lose any sense of charm in the process. It’s such a shame this be the case, as given the narrative, the credentials of the cast – and the incessant sound of Duke Ellington, making up much of the film’s soundtrack, there is so much promise for this to be delightful.
The viewer loses faith in Gondry accordingly, and as the film grows profound and more poignant as the illness takes precedence over the narrative, we’re already, and utterly, emotionally disengaged. Ultimately the entire point is for this tale to starkly go from an otherworldly, blithe setting, and then in a second become so raw and human, making for a unique contradiction of emotions. The intention is certainly for the impact of the illness to be even more harrowing as a result, yet by the time Gondry needs the audience’s investment it’s already too late, as we struggle to find any intimacy amidst the chaos that exists.
In the meantime, the affable trio of lead actors do help to elevate this film somewhat, while every now and again there is a brief moment of enchantment, where a chord is struck just perfectly, and the tone just right. However sadly such moments come too few and far between. That being said, you can’t not admire Gondry for his vivid imagination, and ability to create these surreal worlds on screen and allow for us to immerse ourselves within them. He pushes himself all the time, as an adventurous and innovative filmmaker, and whether you like his movies or not – and believe me, you may well sit very firmly in the latter camp with Mood Indigo – you can’t help but appreciate what he’s at least attempting to achieve.