It’s unusual to see the Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard in anything as syrupy as From The Land of The Moon which in the old days would be simply dismissed as a ‘women’s picture’. Her presence and that of co-star Louis Garrel does at least raise the bar somewhat in what is otherwise a slightly annoying French 1950’s period melodrama directed by Nicole Garcia.
Cotillard plays Gabrielle the older daughter of wealthy farming couple. She is sullen and secretive and totally lacking in any social skills, and makes a scene throwing herself at the local schoolteacher just yards away from the man’s pregnant wife. Her very cold and distant mother who has no patience for her daughter’s violent mood swings and wants shot of her, persuades Jose (Alex Brendemühl) one of the Catalan farm laborers to marry her with a promise that in return she will set him up in business. Gabrielle facing a stark choice of being committed to a mental institution or marriage choses the latter, although she tells Jose that she will never sleep with him.
She does however relent one night and decides to dress up like one of the prostitutes Jose visits every Saturday to get ‘some relief’. The resulting pregnancy ends in a miscarriage, but finally the painful cramps that Gabrielle has been suffering her whole adult life are diagnosed as kidney stones.
The Doctor insists that the best way to treat them is a Spa Cure in an expensive Swiss mountain resort, and although Gabrielle initially reluctantly agrees the moment she meets handsome wounded soldier Lieutenant André Sauvage (Garrel) who she falls hook, line and sinker for, suddenly the Spa isn’t looking so bad after all.
He covers his inability to physically make love with an impassioned speech about respecting her marital status, but it is one that they soon overcome as he is literally dying and even the opium he is addicted too will not stop that. When the time comes for her to leave , he promises to send for her as soon as he can, and so she sits at home writing daily letters to him, snarling at Jose, and all but ignoring the son she finally has for the next 15 or so years.
Cotillard is exquisite but the movie is not, and drags interminably in the second half until it reaches its unsatisfactory conclusion : presuming that is, you have managed to stick with it this far.