FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON, an adaptation of Milena Agus' eponymous novel set after World War II, "Mal de Pierres" spans twenty years, following the destiny of a passionate, free-spirited woman who is in a loveless marriage and falls for another man. Marion Cotillard gives a standout performance as a sensual, independent woman considered a danger to herself and the natural order of society. This is well-heeled French cinema, imbued with class and conviction by director Nicole Garcia, reminiscent of tragic romance films such as THE ENGLISH PATIENT and OUT OF AFRICA.
Relocating the novel’s original Sardinian setting to the south of France, FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON unfolds almost entirely in flashback. Gabrielle (Cotillard) and her husband Jose (Alex Brendemuhl) arrive in Lyon where their teenage son is to compete in a piano competition. When they stop at a particular street, Gabrielle is flushed with memories of a time years ago, and impulsively leaves them to seek news of a long ago lover who once lived at this address. This fuels flashbacks to Gabrielle as a young woman, wading into a river to cool her burning sexual desire. Nonetheless, the young, free-spirited Gabrielle accepts her family’s proposal of a loveless marriage to farm worker Jose, rather than be lorded with the threat of incarceration at a mental hospital.
Later, she is struck by illness and is sent to convalesce in a Swiss sanatorium where she meets Andre (Louis Garrel), a dashing lieutenant, healing his war wounds from Indochina. They immediately strike a passionate connection and fall in love. However, with his high moral standards and her married status, their union seems impossible, which further thwarts Gabrielle’s hungry heart.
Director Garcia tackles a romantic, sweeping story that could have fallen into trite tropes often seen in Nicholas Sparks movies. Instead, she makes wise choices with understated performances, developing the characters as believable rather than Harlequin. The film is also filled with stunning scenery, from the sparkling azure seas to the sprawling fields of lavender and the clouds that circle the Alpine peaks. It’s a perfectly captured environment in which to express the melodrama of star-crossed lovers.
FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.