Friday, July 28, 2017

“From The Land Of The Moon”– Movie Review


This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new drama “From The Land Of The Moon”, starring Marion Cotillard. 


When a married woman’s health forces her to recover at a spa, she falls in love with one of the other patients – but will she leave her husband for this man?


Gabrielle (Cotillard) has never been lucky at love.  Living on a farm in a rural area of France in the 1950’s, a crush she has on a married schoolteacher goes awry when she misinterprets his friendly gesture for a romantic overture.  As she recovers from her bout with unrequited love, her mother realizes that she must somehow find a way to get her daughter married.  The mother notices that José (Àlex Brendemühl), an itinerant worker who has been toiling on the family farm, has had his eye on Gabrielle for a while now.  Gabrielle, on the other hand, could not be less interested in José.  As a result, her mother makes her an offer she can’t refuse:  either marry José or she’ll have Gabrielle committed based on the unorthodox behavior she’s exhibited.

To say that their marriage is loveless is a major understatement; she refuses him sex, so he goes off to be with prostitutes.  Realizing this, Gabrielle offers herself to José on the condition that she be paid for providing him marital services.  Despite her best efforts, she winds up getting pregnant.  However, she has a miscarriage which uncovers a serious medical condition; while surgery can treat this, Gabrielle goes with the less radical option of spending a month and a half at a spa in The French Alps where she will receive an alternative form of treatment which is believed will heal her.

Once there, however, she is introduced to André (Louis Garrel), a lieutenant in the French army who, until recently, was serving his country in Indochina.  The reason why he is a patient in the spa is because while overseas, he developed a rather severe case of uremia, which now leaves him mostly bedridden.  Not particularly caring that she’s got a husband back home, Gabrielle falls hard for this dreamboat and is none to subtle when it comes to putting the moves on him.  As sick as he is, André nevertheless appreciates all of the attention by a pretty young woman.  But will Gabrielle run off with André once they’re both discharged or will pangs of guilt ultimately force her to return to José?


It’s understandable to be deceived into thinking that “From The Land Of The Moon” would be a movie of high quality.  After all, it’s a romantic French film that stars the brilliant actress Marion Cotillard, so that would lend it a certain degree of gravitas and credibility, wouldn’t it?  Sadly, the only who will appreciate it are the hardcore fans of Cotillard; the rest of the public will likely see “From The Land Of The Moon” for what it truly is – a muddled mess that is a filmic version of one of those Russian nesting dolls in that it is melodrama within a melodrama within a melodrama. 

This movie is based on a book; perhaps readers of that novel can understand the reason why this adaptation is titled “From The Land Of The Moon”, because it’s never quite made clear in the film itself.  But that is the least of the things which aren’t quite clear.  With all of the physicians Geraldine has seen over the years in which the story covers, it is amazing that not one of them is a psychiatrist capable of accurately diagnosing her rather disturbing behavior.  Suspend your disbelief at your own risk; caveat emptor has never been so wise a piece of advice when it comes to this motion picture.

As a novel, “From The Land Of The Moon” was probably quite the page-turning yarn.  However, aside from allusions to the French involvement in Indochina, there is precious little in this utterly preposterous tale that even remotely resembles reality.  Not the least of which is the record-scratch of an ending when something is revealed (Welcome To The No Spoiler-Zone) that calls into question much of what we just saw in the previous hour.  It is something of a cheesy filmmaking trick to hook an audience in only to pull the rug out from under them in the end.         

From the Land of the Moon (2016) on IMDb

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