Give me the essential or let me die
Adapted from Milean Agus’ novel ‘Mal di Pietre’, veteran French director Nicole Garcia has made a beautiful film about people’s neediness of love. Gabrielle Savourney (Marion Cotillard), the passionate young adult daughter of successful farmers in French Provence, proves to be a mystery to her parents. Adele, her perplexed and apathetic mother comes up with all sorts of illnesses to describe Gabrielle, while threatening to have her put away in an institution and ignoring the truth. Eventually she spots Spanish workhand José (Alex Broudermühl) glancing at Gabrielle, and comes up with another solution.
Honest and direct, José knows what he is up against, but having lost everything in Franco’s Spain, considers that there is nothing more to be lost. Perhaps he has seen in Gabrielle a reflection of his own needs, however unwilling she is to identify them. José provides Gabrielle with an escape, away from her mother, and in exchange, Gabrielle’s mother provides him with a way to start a business. Alex Sauvage (Louis Garrel), a wounded and shattered soldier on leave from the war in French Indo-China provides the catalyst to the second part of the story, that takes place in the sanitarium, where Gabrielle receives treatment for kidney stones, explaining the original title of the film.
Set in the 1950s, the film is saturated by the summer heat of the south of France. With a soundtrack performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and cicadas, director of photography, Christophe Beaucarne (AFC) has created beautiful images, from the shadowy barns of Provence to the saunas of the Swiss sanitarium, and finally to the Mediterranean. The story’s mystery is retained by the mixed-up chronology, leaving Gabrielle with a new-found confidence in her capacity to be loved, as well as resolution for José.
Selected in competition at the last Cannes film festival, the success of this film is its lack of sentimentality. Cotillard and Broudermühl’s portrayals of empathetic and raw characters are incredibly moving. Go and hug someone, they probably need it.
131 mins (2016)
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