Cannes Review: From the Land of the Moon is a Laughable Anomaly

Overview: A woman in a marriage of convenience falls in love with another man. Studiocanal; 2016; 120 Minutes.

Too Familiar: From the Land of the Moon offers ageneric French period piece melodrama. The premise is too familiar: forbidden and unrequited love disrupts the life of a young and at least somewhat insane Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard). Garbielle is married off to a stranger for whom she has no feelings and simultaneously unable to start a relationship with an officer in the army for whom she does.

There is little that differentiates this film from the others like it. It is generic, painfully over-dramatic, and saccharine. There are solid performances, especially from Marion Cotillard (who generally can do no wrong). Cottilard portrays Gabrielle as fragile and broken. But the character is just so poorly by screenwriters Nicole Garcia and Jacques Fieschi and poorly understood  by Director Garcia that any form of sympathy toward the character is made impossible. Onemight feel more readily sorry for the men in her life, whom she pursues and relies upon or steps over in such dreary, uncouth ways. It is a somewhat preposterous final product, one that perpetuates concepts of feminine fragility and adheres to terrible relationship politics that assume women’s heavy reliance on men.

Wasteful: A great score from Emmanuel Ferrier and Nathan W. Klein is wasted by predictable cues. Christoph Beaucarne’s shallowly pleasant cinematography adds little in function. Certain scenes scream emotive commands at the audience but the execution is generally cold. The framing device in which Gabrielle finds herself coincidentally stuck in traffic with her family on the street of her past lover’s house feels so unnecessary, an unfulfilled attempt at adding some much-needed innovation. It all lends to a Lifetime-worthy effort, enhancing the overlying sense of artifice that distracts from any true emotional connection to the film or its characters’ plights. The sentimentalism is flatly undeserved.

The last half-hour of the film seems to negate anything that the first hour-and-a-half builds up to. With a preposterously campy, ludicrously uncharacteristic twist (that left the press audience laughing yet still applauding vigorously by the end, somehow), the film seems to undergo an identity crisis. It is a funny-bad turn approaching levels of “it was all just a dream.”

Overall: From the Land of the Moon is this year’s Cannes anomaly. It is an expensive-looking, extremely confused film that fails to make any positive impression.

Grade: D-