When English couple, Gemma (Gemma Arterton) and Charles Bovery (Jason Flemyng), move into a small Normandy town, Martin Joubert (Fabrice Luchini), the baker and resident Flaubert fan, can't believe it. Here are two real life people who seem to be replicating the behaviour of his favourite fictional characters right before his eyes.
Review by Louise Keller:
Captivating at every turn, the intriguing idea of life imitating art is beautifully realised in this charming fable in which Flaubert's masterpiece Madame Bovary is the driving force. Based on a novel by Posy Simmonds, Anne Fontaine's film is as playful, melodic, dramatic, lively and emotive as the wonderful score which complements it. The complexities of marriage and infidelity have never been so sweetly portrayed through the voyeuristic eyes of Fabrice Luchini's protagonist, the local baker whose romanticized view of life is inspired by Flaubert's novel.
When the film begins, Martin Joubert (Luchini) kneads his dough and contemplates the characters in the novel that seems to have obsessed him. By way of set up, he explains that he came to Normandy seven years earlier to take over his father's bakery. The fact that his new neighbours Gemma (Gemma Arterton) and Charles Bovery (Jason Flemyng) have similar names to those of Flaubert's characters is the springboard into the narrative, with Martin's concern that Gemma's fate may follow the same path of the title character.
Like Flaubert's novel, the story plays out in flashback, beginning with Charles burning of Gemma's belongings, from which Martin rescues her diary. Gemma and Charles are lured to Normandy 'where the art of living is taken seriously' and the story picks up when Gemma walks into Martin's bakery. He senses her impetuousness and passion by the way she tastes the bread in his shop. The scene when Gemma kneads the dough (Martin shows her how bread is made) is the film's most sensual. We can almost feel the heat as Gemma bunches her hair on the top of her head and takes off her sweater. Martin's fascination and obsession with his beautiful neighbor continues, coupled by his concern when she starts an affair. He begins to feel like a director observing and orchestrating the events as they occur.
There's a wonderful innocence about Martin (Luchini is superb) as he becomes both the observer and participant. The moment when he notices evidence of an indiscretion on Gemma's neck at a dinner gathering is revelatory. The expression on his face is priceless. As for Arterton, she has never been lovelier, delivering excellent and charming French, punctuated by English words and phrases. It is easy to see why Martin - as well as every other male falls in love with her. If the other cast members are less than memorable, it is because Arterton and Luchini set the bar so high. The chemistry between them is palpable.
What will happen? Will Gemma meet the same fate as Flaubert's heroine? And what of Martin? The prologue perfectly inserts an apt full stop, capturing the tone of the film, and highlighting its fable-like qualities. Recommended.
Email this article
GEMMA BOVERY (MA15+)
CAST: Fabrice Luchini, Gemma Arterton, Jason Flemyng
PRODUCER: Matthieu Tarot, Philippe Carcassonne
DIRECTOR: Anne Fontaine
SCRIPT: Pascal Bonitzer, Anne Fontaine (novel by Posy Simmonds)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Christophe Beaucarne
EDITOR: Annette Dutertre
MUSIC: Bruno Coulais
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Arnaud de Moleron
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Regency Media
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 28, 2015