Directed by Nicole Garcia. Starring Marion Cotillard, Alex Brendemühl, Louis Garrel.
THE PLOT: In rural France of the 1940s, Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard) falls for the married village schoolteacher and throws herself at him at a public event in front of his pregnant wife and her own mother, who long since seems to have had enough of her daughter’s melodramatic behaviour. Deciding she needs a man, Gabrielle’s mother marries her off to the sweet but unromantic José (Alex Brendemühl), who accepts that his wife will never love him, but the marriage is beneficial to both of them. When Gabrielle is sent to a spa to cure stones’ disease, she meets André (Louis Garrel), an encounter with whom will change her life forever.
THE VERDICT: The first of two films that Marion Cotillard has In Competition at Cannes, ‘From the Land of the Moon’ is based on Milena Agus’ novel of the same name, but although the film is told through flashback, it is not told through Gabrielle’s granddaughter’s eyes, as it is in the book.
Marion Cotillard as luminous in the lead role, and suffers as beautifully on screen as she ever has. It is Cotillard that carries the film through the rather hum-drum romantic melodrama, and as always, makes the character feel real. Alex Brendemühl doesn’t have a lot to do as José, but he is a support to Gabrielle, even as his motivations are not always clear, and Louis Garrel does well with making André a romantic, tortured hero.
The screenplay, written by Jacques Fieschi and director Nicole Garcia, keeps the intrigue of the film going throughout, but does not always make the motivations of the characters clear, as they make decisions that seem to be against their best interest. The film feels sluggish at times, as we start at the end, and work our way forward through flashback, so we know where the film is going to end up; it just takes its time getting there.
As director, Nicole Garcia makes Marion Cotillard the centre of the film, with antagonists and allies on every side, but never truly makes clear whether Gabrielle is deluded, obsessive or simply being dismissed because she is a woman and seems to be hysterical. The pacing of the film is slow, with a clear build to a twist on the horizon, but this borders on the silly, and undermines the rest of the film. There is a rather charming old fashioned feel about the film, but it needed a stronger pace to carry the romantic triangle that springs up at its centre.
In all, ‘From the Land of the Moon’ is a film easily carried by Marion Cotillard who, as always, makes her character luminous and fascinating, but with a rather strange twist, underdeveloped motivations and themes, and pacing that feels rather sluggish, From the Land of the Moon ends with a whimper, and never packs the punch the story truly deserves.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Cannes Review - From the Land of the Moon
Review by Brogen Hayes
  • filmbuff2011

    Translated from the French, Mal De Pierres comes across as Stones. Not the most descriptive or helpful of titles for an audience wondering whether to see the film. Hence, a change of title for the Irish release to the more elegant-sounding From The Land Of The Moon.

    In provincial France of the 1950s, Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard) is unmarried and lives with her parents. This is causing concern for her mother Adele (Brigitte Rouan). Gabrielle’s behaviour becomes erratic and irresponsible, drawing attention from the locals. In order to set her right, Gabrielle is given the choice of either marrying decent-but-dull farmer Jose (Alex Brendemuhl) or being sent away to a mental hospital. She chooses the former. Gabrielle and Jose have a loveless marriage, with Jose even paying her for sex. When her continually odd behaviour is attributed to a sickness in her kidney stones, Gabrielle is sent away to a health spa in the Alps. There, she gradually comes back to herself. Though, that has more to do with the sickly young man, Lieutenant Andre (Louis Garrel), who catches her eye and quickens her heart…

    Based on the novel by Milena Agus, adapted here by Jacques Fieschi, Natalie Carter and director Nicole Garcia, From The Land Of The Moon is a quietly-considered character piece. A flawed one at that, but it just about manages to keep on the right side of credible. That’s mostly due to the performances. Beset by female troubles and driven near-mad by her passions and desires, Gabrielle is a tricky character to pull off. Incapable of giving a bad performance, the reliable Cotillard holds the screen though and keeps the emotional beats ticking. Thanks to her and Garcia’s focused direction, Gabrielle is rescued and brought back from the brink of oblivion. Brendemuhl and Garrel provide good support too.

    That does show up flaws in the script though, particularly in relation to Gabrielle’s relationship with Jose. It’s not until later in the story that she starts to realise what a solid and reliable man he is. That could have been played up earlier on, rather than portraying Jose as a thorn in her side. In a sense, all Gabrielle needs is psychiatric help to right herself. She doesn’t need a man or to get married. Her life options seem startlingly limited at the beginning, with her behaviour more like a teenager in heat than a mature woman. A third-act rug pull asks us to re-assess what we just saw. That’s an unnecessary plot development, which doesn’t do the film any favours. However, From The Land Of The Moon is still an interesting and emotionally-fused watch thanks to Cotillard. ***