When I sat down to view “Gemma Bovery” at the COLCOA French Film Festival sponsored by Air Tahiti Nui recently, I anticipated the need to keep my concentration sharp through a weighty French psychological exposition drama. I was pleasantly surprised. This film is beautifully made, with a story that moves effortlessly across the screen, as does its star, Gemma Arterton. The film is a whimsical, genuinely loving commentary on life and the characters we meet (or those we imagine we meet).
We get to know the players right away. The location, an isolated country village in Normandy, becomes a colorful character in itself. Cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne does a great job of giving us a full view of the village and countryside, letting us absorb the surroundings as if we are living there. The environment draws us into the story. Close-ups and long shots flow brilliantly with the narrative.
Director Anne Fontaine says that she always asks herself this question of her characters: “What are the things about themselves that they’re unaware of?” I was not surprised to learn that this French director has a strong resume — and that she had studied ballet seriously from the age of seven, as her film is beautifully choreographed. Editor Annette Dutertre does an amazing job with each scene. Nothing is longer or shorter than it needs to be. Emotions are hinted at by subtle visual clues rather than played out or explained.
The music by composer Bruno Coulais matches the style of the film — whimsical and imaginative. The score is a perfect highlight to the scenes, and memorable enough not to be relegated to background music. Production designer Arnaud de Moleron skillfully gives the characters rooms and houses that provide insight into their personalities.
Fabrice Luchini steals the show — even from mega-star Arterton, in his performance as the Parisian city dweller transplanted to this isolated village. Here his vivid imagination and daydreams seem to not simply mirror reality — they become reality. You don’t need to know the French language to understand him. A superb actor, he communicates in a realm outside of words.
Arterton is perfectly cast as the object of men’s dreams. She is sensuous yet approachable, effortlessly filling her “stage” with every movement. Director Fonteyn said that she was originally hesitant to cast Gemma – then, upon their first meeting, as soon as Gemma walked into the room and said “Bonjour Anne”, she knew she had found her star – again, no words necessary. Jason Flemyng makes a wonderful long-suffering husband and Isabelle Candelier is perfect as Luchini’s strong and grounded wife who accepts his flights into fancy and brings him back to earth when needed.
Director Fonteyn and Pascal Bonitzer have done a brilliant job adapting Posy Simmonds’ novel to the screen. The theme of the story, the importance of imagination in coloring our lives, is a perfect study for the medium of film.
Rated R. 99 minutes.
Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her firstname.lastname@example.org.