“Once upon a time, there was a woman. The most beautiful and amazing woman in the world. One day, she was attacked by a monster but then a girl cam running up and killed it. And the woman said, you are my special girl and I’ll never let you go.”
As charming and bittersweet as it’s kindred text
This is not a modern-retelling of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovery,or at least not a conventional update. With similar events and characters the film is instead a winsome, endearing if slightly flawed echo of the 19th Century novel.
Martin Joubert (Fabrice Luchini) moved from Paris to a small village in Normandy seven years previously to takeover his father’s bakery. Martin mostly enjoys village-life; the simple routines of making and selling bread, being a husband and a father. However his ‘years of sexual tranquility’ end upon the arrival of Gemma Bovery (Gemma Arterton) and her husband Charlie Jason Flemyng. Martin cannot believe the coincidence of this British couple with THAT surname taking up residence in his village which has links to Flaubert and his novel. Not only do their names link to the book, but their lives appear to be following the text also. Martin quickly engrains himself into their lives, taking it upon himself to mentor Gemma and guide her away from the tragic end of the eponymous Madame Bovery.
It would make sense to briefly talk about the main, and only, real flaw of this film before really getting into the good stuff. The film doesn’t really have a main focus, instead drifting from scenario to scenario through irregular pacing or, occasionally, irregular links. In fact between a promising first act and a surprising (and rather entertaining) third act, the middle does meander therefore reducing the tautness of the narrative.
But this is compensated by the film itself being utterly endearing. The village and it’s surrounding areas is beautifully shot, with the camera finding beauty in every shot. The main beauty is Gemma herself, who is adored by many men and the clearly the cinematographer. Happily the script and Arterton’s performance combined make this adoration understandable to be audience, creating a bewitching character who is both beguiling yet frustrating in behaviour.
With this film you are forced into a fantasy world, which you are immersed in quickly and readily. The film is fun and engaging but with a melancholic heart at the centre. Gemma Bovery is pleasant and ambling depiction of how love can be fraught and frantic, full of yearning and seduction, adultery and scandal.