Playing with fate

This is my review of Gemma Bovery (2014).

Although I do not know how close it is to Posy Simmonds’ satirical cartoon strip about English expatriates in rural France on which it is based, this French-British collaboration is an amusing and neatly plotted parody of Flaubert’s famous classic “Madame Bovary” which it is not essential to have read in advance.

Martin Joubert, played by the excellent Fabrice Lucchini, has returned to his picturesque, except in the English-type rain, home village in Normandy to produce mouth-watering bread in the boulangerie inherited from his father. He may have become disillusioned with publishing, but his literary passion for “Madame Bovary” arouses a fascination which will inevitably turn into infatuation, much to his wife’s irritation, when his new neighbour proves not only to be the classic heroine’s virtual namesake “Gemma Bovery”, but also to have a possibly dull husband Charles, and be fatally attractive and fairly soon rather bored. When Gemma, played convincingly by the suitably irresistible (and named) Gemma Arterton, duly starts an affair and buys arsenic-laced poison to get rid of the local fieldmice which invade her cottage, Charles becomes convinced that events are on course to imitate those of Flaubert’s art, and does his frantic, clumsy best to upset them, not always for entirely altruistic motives.

Having seen some quite critical reviews dismissing this as, for instance, “a watchable but sugary snack” of a film, I came to it with low expectations. In fact, I liked the mix of cultural differences and language between the English and French (with subtitles) characters, the frequent humour and amusing variations on Flaubert’s original plot. Ironically, it may even convey to a modern audience better than the novel how, even in secular C21 Europe, a woman may become the victim of her sexual appeal to men.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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