Film Review by Jon E Clist
Martin, an ex-Parisian well-heeled hipster passionate about Gustave Flaubert who settled into a Norman village as a baker, sees an English couple moving into a small farm nearby. Not only are the names of the new arrivals Gemma and Charles Bovery, but their behavior also seems to be inspired by Flaubert's heroes.
So before seeing this film I hadn’t read the famous French novel Madam Bovary or even seen any of the film adaptations of it. I was familiar with the plot and hence I at least had the understanding of the way in which this film leverages against that story.
So you could say that I kind of went into this film with a relatively clean slate and the ability to judge this film for what it is; its own standalone story that pays homage to a classic piece of literature. For that I think this is a very successful cinematic outing. The plot is interesting and there are plenty of elements within the plot that help to move the story along in interesting ways. Of course there is the central plot that involves one man looking in on the lives of his neighbours and seeing various similarities to his favourite novel, Madame Bovary. This makes for plenty of funny and interesting moments along the way. There are moments where the similarities are obvious and others where they could very much be wishful thinking in the mind of one who longs for this story to come to life in front of his eyes.
Fabrice Luchini brings this central character to life with great humility. He is a man whom you follow with interest and you can’t help but empathize with him. It is a very cool story-telling technique utilised here, by using him as the central character you get to watch the story of Gemma and Charlie come to fruition right in front of you without completely feeling that they are telling their story. I guess it kind of plays to our voyeuristic leanings.
One of the other parts of this film that I enjoyed it the move out of it being a period drama. Since seeing Gemma Bovery I have since seen a cinematic adaptation of Madame Bovary. It is clear that the original is not under any circumstances a comedy of any proportions. So straight away that is one of the things that sets this film apart from the point of inspiration. Where it stays connected with the original is this concept that idle hands are the devil’s playground. Arterton’s title character brings this to life with a verve. She floats along the filmscape with an ability to have you love and pity her. Which is something that the character of Madam Bovary is unable to do. You can feel that she is a person who is emotionally lost and struggles to know what she wants until it is a little too hard to take firm hold of.
A well told story that for me surpasses the source material that it builds from. Well worth a trip to the movies.
Film Releases: 28th May 2015
Duration: 99 minutes
Duration: 99 minutes
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Fabrice Luchini, Isabelle Candelier, Jason Flemyng
Director: Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel, Oh La La!)
While Valerie and Martin lie in bed arguing about the banality of Madame Bovary, Valerie is reading a biography of Francois Mauriac. Mauriacs most famous novel Thérèse Desqueyroux also deals with a bored, unhappy woman in the back province, but this one attempts to poison her husband with arsenic.