You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘From the Land of the Moon’

Marion Cotillard, Louis Garrel, Alex Brendemühl, Brigitte Rouan, Victoire Du Bois, Aloïse Sauvage, Daniel Para, Jihwan Kim, Victor Quilichini.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3794028/

A film prone to cutting on an unfallen tear, “From the Land of the Moon” from French director Nicole Garcia is as syrupy a confection as ever dripped from the pen of Nicholas Sparks (though inspired by the novel “Mal di Pietre” by Milena Angus). Given a gloss of respectability by the tastefulness of Garcia’s style, the genteel photography from Christophe Beaucarne, an unobjectionable score from Daniel Pemberton and a performance of tremulous commitment from Marion Cotillard (as per), as well as by its ineffable Frenchness, that last quality might be enough to bring those who equate “French” with “artistic” to the yard. But even they may find themselves choking on this bonbon during a credibility-assassinating final act reveal.

Cotillard plays Gabrielle, who at the film’s opening is a (slightly unconvincingly) young woman in rural France, nursing a wild crush on the local village schoolteacher — understandable as he looks like the Athena poster version of a booksmart hunk. In a segment that acts a self-contained cautionary tale against lending books to impressionable girls, especially when the book is “Wuthering Heights” — hello, signals — Gabrielle flings herself at him in front of his pregnant wife and her own unloving mother, only to be rejected, and to flee through the nearby forest in response.

This forest-fleeing is such representative behavior on the part of the tempestuously emotional Gabrielle that the scene is repeated more or less verbatim later on, following another rejection from another hunk. By this time, Gabrielle, under threat of the loony bin otherwise, has married Jose (an understatedly sympathetic Alex Brendemühl), a saturnine Spanish bricklayer first approached for the role of Gabrielle’s husband by her mother, who is anxious to get her off her hands, believing her troubled daughter “needs a man.”

Popular on Variety

Gabrielle would agree with that, but Jose is not the man she thinks she needs. That spot is taken by the story’s other dreamboat: the obviously named Andre Sauvage (Louis Garrel bringing strong “brood” game). He’s a lieutenant in the French army sent to the same spa/sanitarium in which Gabrielle is recovering from a kidney stone ailment (the film’s title in French is “Mal de Pierres,” literally meaning “evil stones” the French term for this illness), and he ticks every nonsense box on the fantasy-man checklist. He’s handsome; he’s dying; he’s isolated; he’s in great pain — his ripped body constantly contorted into Caravaggian attitudes of suffering amid tousled bedclothes. He has a snazzy uniform in the closet. He plays the piano.

Their brief amour fou, and his promise that he will send for her, become the defining events of Gabrielle’s life. But, back with the superhumanly long-suffering Jose, months pass without hearing from him, and Gabrielle gives birth to a son, Marc. The months stretch into years, and Marc grows into a promising young pianist.

Most disappointing, perhaps, is that at the outset it seems like the film might be about sex. We even get a quick glimpse of pubic hair and a clever scene in which, on discovering that according to their no-sex arrangement, Jose pays prostitutes in Toulon 200 francs, Gabrielle finally offers herself to him at the same price — a slyly over-literal interpretation of the old “a wife should be a whore in the bedroom” adage. (Also: petition to get “going to Toulon” declared an official euphemism for “visiting a prostitute”). But “Moon” is not about sex, nor even about love; it’s about Grand Passion (“the principle thing” as Gabrielle mystifyingly dubs it in her prayers) and Garcia’s few edgy, explorative instincts soon give way to a far more decorous and far less interesting evocation of “exquisite” emotional suffering.

Of course, Cotillard is your first call if you want an actress to suffer exquisitely, but the issue is her character Gabrielle is essentially a nightmare of self-involvement, whose emotional torture is very difficult to get invested in since she herself has already bought all the shares. And really, that is all there is to her — not a particularly affectionate or engaged mother to Marc, a frosty wife to Jose and with no discernible outside interests or skills, Gabrielle evidently has but one ambition in life, to experience a grand folie a deux-style love affair. Which might on the one hand make her admirably single-minded, but it also makes her quite perfectly boring.

Garcia, like many actors-cum-helmers has a fairly good track record of directing her actors to strong performances (Catherine Deneuve in “Place Vendome,” for example, or Daniel Auteuil in “The Adversary”). But Cotillard is given nothing else to do here except alternate reproachful glares with wan sighs and deliver delicate lines like, “You have slender hands,” in such a way that we all understand they’re code for, “Take me, and take me now.” And even that might be enough (such is the magnetism of Cotillard) were it not for the final indignity of an ending which betrays not only the audience, and Gabrielle, but also the film’s initially progressive inclination to explore the self-actualization process of a woman repressed by a loveless marriage and the social mores of 1950s France. Instead we get this borderline pastiche of the French romantic melodrama, that might more accurately be titled “From The Land of The Moon-Eyed” until that risible final act twist that jeopardizes its purchase on the romantic imagination of even the most sentimental viewer.

Film Review: 'From the Land of the Moon'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 15, 2016. Running time: 120 MIN. (Original title: “Mal de pierres”)

Production: (France-Belgium) A Sundance Selects (in U.S.), Studiocanal (in France) release of a les Productions du Trésor production, in co-production with Studiocanal, France 3 Cinéma, with the support of Lunanimé, Pauline’s Angel, My Unity Prod., Cofinova, Indéfilms, La Banque Postale, Canal Plus, Cine Plus, France Télévisions. (International sales: Studiocanal, Paris.) Produced Alain Attal.

Crew: Directed by Nicole Garcia. Screenplay, Garcia, Jacques Fieschi, based on the novel by Milena Agus. Camera (color, widescreen), Christophe Beaucarner; editor, Simon Jacquet; music, Daniel Pemberton; production designer, Arnaud de Moleron; sound, Jean-Pierre Duret, Sylvain Malbrant, Raphaël Mouterde, Jean-Pierre Laforce.; line producer, Xavier Amblard; assistant director, Sébastien Matuchet; casting, Stéphane Batut, Richard Rousseau.

With: Marion Cotillard, Louis Garrel, Alex Brendemühl, Brigitte Rouan, Victoire Du Bois, Aloïse Sauvage, Daniel Para, Jihwan Kim, Victor Quilichini.

More Film

  • 'Wonder Woman 1984' Trailer: Gal Gadot

    'Wonder Woman 1984' Trailer: Gal Gadot Returns With Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig

    “Wonder Woman 1984” dropped its first trailer on Sunday, with Gal Gadot returning as the titular Amazonian goddess. The film is set, of course, in the 1980s in America, decades after the first film’s events. Kristen Wiig is playing Wonder Woman’s infamous comic-book nemesis Cheetah, while Chris Pine is returning for the sequel. It’s unclear, [...]

  • Over the Sea

    Macao Film Review: 'Over the Sea'

    The beginning is a fairy tale, or a nursery rhyme. A woman nurses her squalling baby in a house by an orchard near the sea. Sunlight slants in through the open windows, the mother hums a lullaby, and then brings her son outside and places him in a cot suspended from the apple-laden branches of [...]

  • CCA Film Nominations

    Critics' Choice: 'The Irishman,' 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Lead Movie Nominations

    “The Irishman” has picked up the most film nominations for the 35th annual Critics’ Choice Awards. The Martin Scorsese gangster drama goes into the awards show with 14 noms, including best picture, director, acting ensemble as well as best actor (Robert De Niro) and supporting actor (Al Pacino and Joe Pesci), the Critics’ Choice Association [...]

  • Parasite

    'Parasite' Named Best Film of 2019 by L.A. Film Critics Association

    Members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. met Sunday to vote on the year’s best cinema accomplishments. Recent winners of the group’s top prize include “Roma,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “Moonlight,” “Spotlight,” “Boyhood,” “Her”/”Gravity” and “Amour.” “Parasite” has fared the best, taking not only best picture, but also best director for Bong Joon [...]

  • Jumanji The Next Level

    Box Office: 'Jumanji 2' Kicks Off Overseas With $52 Million as 'Frozen 2' Powers Toward $1 Billion

    Disney’s “Frozen 2” skated past international box office competition again as the animated sequel propels toward the billion-dollar mark globally. “Frozen 2” generated another $90 million from 48 foreign territories, boosting its worldwide weekend haul to $124.9 million. After three weekends in theaters, Disney’s musical follow-up has made $919.7 million and should cross $1 billion [...]

  • Lily James

    Lily James Delivers Masterclass in Charm in Macao

    British actor, Lily James delivered a masterclass in charm and good humor at a seminar on Sunday at the International Film Festival and Awards Macao. Questioned on stage by one of the festival’s senior programmers, James brightly chatted her way through eight years of a screen career that has taken her from “Downton Abbey” to [...]

  • Avengers Endgame Lion King Frozen 2

    Disney Crushes Own Global Box Office Record With Historic $10 Billion

    Thanks to a record number of billion-dollar blockbusters, Disney has become the first studio in history to surpass $10 billion at the worldwide box office. Through Sunday, the studio has generated $3.28 billion in North America and $6.7 billion overseas for a global haul of $9.997 billion and is expected to officially cross the benchmark [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content