Phoenix Film Festival Review: Louise Archambault's Gabrielle

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

If you read the synopsis of Louise Archambault's 2013 French-Canadian drama Gabrielle, then you walk into the movie knowing the experience isn't going to be easy. The title character, played by Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, is a 22-year-old woman living with Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by delayed neurological development, cardiovascular disease, and abundant cheerfulness.

See also: 10 Must-See Movies at the Phoenix Film Festival 2014

The film follows Gabrielle as she struggles to attain and maintain things she considers ordinary: independent living and, most importantly, a relationship with her boyfriend, Martin, played by Alexandre Landry, whose own developmental impairment is apparent but never defined.

Of course, because of their conditions, Gabrielle and Martin don't always feel that they have control of their lives. Voices of opposition, support, and reason come from Gabrielle's sister (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin), professional caretakers, and Martin's protective mother (Marie Gignac), who ultimately puts forth executive decisions that dictate the trajectory of their courtship.

Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, Gabrielle begins and ends on a sweet note -- literally, the timeline of the movie is structured around their rehearsals and final performance in a Montreal choir.

However this bookend positivity doesn't exactly make the movie fly by. Throughout the film, Gabrielle and Martin's choir repeatedly rehearses the same symbolic songs, like Robert Charlebois' "Ordinary" (a reference to Gabrielle and Martin's desire to be normal) and "Lindberg" (a song with reference to flying away and a girl named Sophie, incidentally the name of Gabrielle's sister who has left on a plane).

The film also feels longer thanks to certain scenes that run without sound for extended periods of time. Presumably, these moments of total silence are an attempt to add emotional depth to film, but instead they pull the viewer out of the movie and back into reality.

Add to all of this the sometimes unstable, and thus nauseating, camerawork, and there are times when Gabrielle seems like it's much longer than it needs to be.

Still, it's easy to feel affection for Gabrielle and Martin. And that helps the 105-minute film stay interesting -- even during the repetitive and lengthy parts. Given the somewhat gray-area subject matter that it's attempting depict, Gabrielle does a decent job of being real but uplifting, honest but not predictably heart-breaking. So if you're patient, lack motion sickness, and are fully prepared to be envious of the Canadian healthcare system, Gabrielle carries both promise and a positive outlook.

The Phoenix Film Festival will hold a final screening of Gabrielle at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, at Harking Scottsdale 101. Visit www.phoenixfilmfestival.com for tickets and information.

Follow Jackalope Ranch on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.