Director: Anne Fontaine
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Fabrice Luchini, Jason Flemyng, Isabelle Canderlier, Niels Schneider
Written by: Pascal Bonitzer, Anne Fontaine and (based on the graphic novel) Posy Simmonds
Running Time: 99 mins
Release date: 21st August 2015
Gemma Bovery is one of those films that will leave you wanting. This should have blown me out of the water and while it is luscious to look at, has two central performances that work brilliantly, it kind of left me wanting much more than what I got. A slice of French deliciousness dressed up like an ITV soap opera.
Gemma Bovery, an English interior designer, moves, with her husband Charlie, to a small French provincial village to start a new life away from the hustle of London. Watched on by baker, Martin, who instantly becomes obsessed with Gemma, he sees that there could be a connection with the classic novel, Madame Bovery as Gemma slowly becomes bored with life and embarks on an affair.
Based on Posy Simmons graphic novel, this slight French drama from acclaimed director, Anne Fontaine, is as pleasant as a film could be, with its beautiful scenery that transports you to the rolling fields of a French village. It is shot impeccably while at the same time capturing the gentle mood of the story. This is a film that doesn’t need to rush to tell its story. The trouble is, the story is somewhat lacking in-depth.
Martin, a mature man who narrates the piece, should have been the commentator of the goings on with an impartial eye. Instead, he reduces everything to an older man lusting after a younger woman, knowing that he can but dream. While he feels it will head down a path of tragedy, he doesn”t seem to do anything about it.
Meanwhile, Gemma, who has a perfectly nice husband, and lives in a storybook cottage, does seem to be a little on the slow side. She doesn’t notice anything, least of all that the gentle, kind baker is almost dribbling over her, most noticeable in a scene where she is allowed to make bread and Martin’s eyes almost bulge out of his head.
The performances are varied to say the least. The excellent Jason Flemyng is given nothing to do as Charlie, while young Niels Schnider, as the man Gemma starts a dangerous affair with, has far too much screen time and is, quite frankly, terrible. Thankfully, the two leads are on top form.
Fabrice Luchini, as Martin, is a delight and while he is reduced to being nothing more than a dirty old man, he does bring a sense of class and dignity to the role. He brings more depth to a role that could have been very one-dimensional. Meanwhile, Gemma Arterton proves once more what a real talent she is. With her perfect delivery of the French, she is not only very easy on the eye but is much more than just an object of desire. When she is given the room to breathe, she puts life in the character of Gemma that would hardly have been there. The film really comes to life when the pair are on screen together, just walking and talking.
Gemma Bovery is a film that will wash over you but nothing else. While the original novel is a satire on life in French life and literature, it doesn’t translate onto the screen. It feels like an underwritten soap opera. If you go in just wanting nice scenery and two pleasant leads, then you won’t be disappointed. Otherwise, with all that bread around, you may feel underfed.