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New Release Review - FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON

from the land of the moon review
While recovering at a Swiss spa, a married woman falls for an injured soldier.







Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Nicole Garcia

Starring: Marion Cotillard, Louis Garrel, Alex Brendemuhl

from the land of the moon poster


In Hollywood, if you're an actress over the age of 40 and your name isn't Meryl Streep, good luck landing any lead roles. In France however it's a very different scenario. French cinema has always loved its ingenues, but it doesn't ditch them as soon as they hit the menopause. Female stars like Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert and Kristin Scott Thomas have been relishing some of the finest roles of their lives in recent years. Though she's now 41, Marion Cotillard stills feel like a fresh discovery, and despite playing a woman young enough to be her daughter in Nicole Garcia's From the Land of the Moon, she never feels miscast.


from the land of the moon

In this adaptation of Milena Agus's novel, Cotillard plays Gabrielle, whom we first encounter as a forty-something in 1960s Lyon. Stuck in traffic on the way to her teenage son's piano competition, Gabrielle spots a street sign that triggers a memory, and hops out of the car, showing disregard for her son and her husband Jose (Alex Brendemuhl), rushing into an apartment block to confront some element of her past.

The movie then recounts the story of how as a young woman, considered wayward due to her interest in sex, Gabrielle was forced to marry Jose, a Spanish labourer on her family's farm, to preserve the reputation of the family among the local community. Prior to the marriage, Gabrielle suffers from severe stomach cramps, and oddly nobody puts two and two together, so it's a surprise to everyone when she discovers she is pregnant and miscarries soon after her wedding.


from the land of the moon

At the suggestion of her doctor, Gabrielle checks into a Swiss spa resort (following Youth and A Cure For Wellness, this is becoming a sub-genre of its own) for six weeks. There she encounters Andre (Louis Garrel), a handsome French soldier badly injured while serving in Indochina. The two strike up an initially platonic bond, but soon Gabrielle's carnal desires return.

Cotillard is most certainly the MVP here. She's always captivating, and thoroughly convincing as a woman in her early twenties. But she's trapped in a drab film, one that refuses to admit it's a melodrama in the way the films of Pedro Almodovar and Todd Haynes are so happy to acknowledge. Despite plot elements that would be at home in Dynasty or Dallas, the film feels undercooked, and suffocatingly restrained, refusing to embrace the Mills & Boon nature of its story.


from the land of the moon

From the Land of the Moon's ultimate message (delivered after a plot twist so ridiculous even M Night Shyamalan would tear it out of his typewriter and cast it in the bin) amounts to a riff on the regressive and naive idea that "if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." Halfway through this tiresome tale, I found myself wishing I was watching another movie, and no matter how hard I tried to love Garcia's film, we just weren't meant to be together.

From the Land of the Moon is in UK cinemas now and opens in ROI June 23rd.



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