From the Land of the Moon

From-the-Land-of-the-Moon-- From the Land of the Moon  (2017)   IFC Films/Drama    RT: 120 minutes    Rated R (strong sexual content, graphic nudity)    Director: Nicole Garcia    Screenplay: Nicole Garcia and Jacques Fieschi    Music: Daniel Pemberton    Cinematography: Christophe Beaucarne    Release date: August 4, 2017 (Philadelphia, PA)    Cast: Marion Cotillard, Louis Garrel, Alex Brendemuhl, Brigitte Rouan, Victoire Du Bois, Aloise Sauvage, Daniel Para, Jihnwan Kim, Victor Quillichini.      Spoken in French w/English subtitles


 No actress can play suffering characters like Marion Cotillard. She has perfected this art with her roles in La Vie en Rose (for which she won an Oscar), Little White Lies, Rust and Bone, The Immigrant, Two Days, One Night and From the Land of the Moon, a French-language drama from Nicole Garcia (A View of Love) in which she plays Gabrielle, an unhappily married woman who spends her life longing for the kind of passion that exists only in novels like Wuthering Heights. Cotillard has a very expressive face. It lights up when she smiles. Her eyes contain all the sadness in the world when she’s sad. I love her as an actress.

land of the  moon From the Land of the Moon straddles the line between art film and soap opera with its story of a highly emotional woman in post WWII rural France that nobody understands. Set within the framework of a flashback, it opens with Gabrielle travelling in Lyon with her husband and teenage son. She sees a familiar address and demands to be let out of the car. She heads to an apartment building while her family goes on their way. She checks the names on the doorbells and appears to recognize one. She contemplates ringing it which is when we’re taken back to her days as a schoolgirl.

 Many in her small provincial town, including her own family, think her mad. After an incident with the local teacher, her unloving mother decides it’s time to marry her off and make her somebody else’s problem. She convinces a Spanish bricklayer, Jose (Brendemuhl, Falling Star), to take her as his wife. Gabrielle makes it clear that she doesn’t love him and will never sleep with him. This is only a marriage of convenience (for everybody but her). For years, she’s been complaining of great physical pains for which the local doctor could never find a cause. It’s finally determined that she has kidney stones- the film’s original French title Mal de Pierres translates to “bad stones”- and will require a long stay at a Swiss mountain spa for treatment.

 It’s there where she meets Andre (Garrel, Saint Laurent), a handsome French soldier who lost his leg in the war in Indochina. He prefers not to mingle with the other patients and spends most of the time in his private room. Gabrielle falls in love with him; she thinks she’s finally found that great passion she’s been looking for all her life. Then he has to go away which causes her to sink into another depression. All she has is his promise that he will send for her at the right time. She goes home (reluctantly) and waits to hear from him. She gives birth to son she believes to be his. She never hears from Andre. He doesn’t answer any of the many letters she sends over the years. What gives?

 There seems to be some confusion over the title From the Land of the Moon; allow me to clear it up. It comes from a line in the original novel by Milena Agus that reads “Her whole life she had been told that she was like someone from the land of the moon.” This line is never uttered in the movie. Although it’s heavily implied, it’s never made clear if Gabrielle is mentally ill. Of course, it’s highly unlikely rural folks in 1950s France would know anything of depression or BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). As fine a performance Cotillard delivers, I didn’t buy her as a schoolgirl in the movie’s early scenes. The 41-year-old actress looks too mature to play a girl in her late teens. Aside from that, she’s pretty great in From the Land of the Moon. Her character’s misery, at times, manifests itself as cruelty and coldness. When Jose comes to visit her at the spa, she coldly informs him that he brings bad weather with him. Cotillard is actually the best thing about the movie.

 So what about the movie? Is it any good? I’d say it’s watchable albeit a bit slow and overlong. The scenery and cinematography are gorgeous. The score by Daniel Pemberton is nice. The storyline is fairly standard until an 11th hour twist that I didn’t see coming. It’s something of a game-changer. The acting by the rest of the cast, especially Garrel as the dashing forbidden lover and Brendemuhl as the patient husband resigned to a life defined by a loveless marriage. From the Land of the Moon isn’t a great film by any means but it does make a nice guilty pleasure for those who dig syrupy romantic tearjerkers. It’s sappy rather than trashy. It makes for a nice afternoon movie.

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