A review of the 2014 French film “Gemma Bovery”

In the beginning (1856), there was the classic French novel “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert of which there have been many film versions in French, English and even Hindi. Then, in 1999, there was an English-language graphic novel “Gemma Bovery” by Posy Simmons which reworked the story into a satirical tale of English expatriates in France. 

Finally, in 2014, we have a (largely) French-language film version of the novel by Luxembourger director Anne Fontaine. The point of view is that of Martin (Fabrice Luchini), an ex-Parisian with something of an obsession for Gustave Flaubert’s work, who has settled in a village in Normandy as a baker (lots of gorgeous countryside and delicious bread on display). He becomes overly involved in the life of a British couple who have just moved into the village, Charles Bovery (Jason Flemyng) and his bewitchingly beautiful wife Gemma (Gemma Arterton). 

The success of the film is due to Arterton’s looks and acting. Originally Fontaine rejected Arterton for the role because the British actor had starred in another film adaptation of a Posy Simmonds graphic novel, “Tamara Drewe” (2010). Also Arterton didn’t speak a word of French when she was cast in the film, but she learned to speak her French lines with the help of her then boyfriend Franklin Ohannessian who also worked on the production.

The story is presented as both comedy and drama which might confuse some viewers, but I loved the movie as an under-appreciated gem (sorry for the pun).


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