“Gabrielle” A Poignant Story of Love and Music (Foreign Film Review)



Poignant, enlightening and romantic the movie Gabrielle tells a compelling story of a young woman challenged by her genetic disorder.  Directed with a keen sense of understanding by Louise Archambault the film works with several anxieties including rite of passage, family influence, dealing with peers, coming of age and sexuality. The acting is brilliant and the story inspires viewpoints and conversations.

Gabrielle (Gabrielle Marion-Rivard) has reached the age of 22 and participates locally at a center for the mentally challenged.  She has Williams Syndrome a disorder that sets her apart from her peers who do not understand the symptoms.  She’s a loving person as most all inflicted with her condition are talkative, lovable and have a keen sense for music.  Gabrielle sings with Les Muses de Montreal a choral group made up of a group of children who attend the center and lead by choir master Remi (Vincent-Guillaume Otis). They are currently practicing for a major concert where they will back-up Canadian singer Robert Charlebois.

Gabrielle Marion-Rivard as Gaby

Gabrielle Marion-Rivard as Gaby

But, not all is roses for Gabrielle as there are many conflicts in her life.  She lives with her sister Sophie (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) who has problems of her own being in a long distance relationship with her boyfriend Raphael (Sebastien Ricard).  Sophie has resisted going to live with him for the sake of Gabrielle, but she’s been pushed to make a decision on leaving Canada to be with him in India.  Compounding the problems for Gabrielle is her growing love for 25 year old Martin (Alexandre Landry) who’s a member of the same choir and has special needs himself.  Gabrielle has a growing urge for a sexual relationship and she and Martin are both seeking that  intimacy. When all her problems come crashing down, major decisions have to be made.

Sophie (Desormeaux-Poulin) and Gabrielle (Marion-Rivard)

Sophie (Desormeaux-Poulin) and Gabrielle (Marion-Rivard)

Gabrielle Marion-Rivard takes center stage in this film as the angst riddled young woman with Williams Syndrome.  She does a brilliant job with the role and having the disorder herself adds a realistic quality and admiration for her performance.  Director Louise Archambault moves her film along at a nice pace introducing the characters, showing their challenges and inserting the quandaries and conflicts.  Her ability to draw believable characters depicting various mental and physical challenges from her support cast puts the film on a level with The Other Sister and Mozart and the Whale.
The music works extremely well with the film showing how the members of the choir work together in harmony.  The songs are magical leaving the two major songs “Ordinare” sung by Alexandre Landry as Martin with back up from the choir and “Lindberg” voiced by Robert Charlebois stuck in your head well after you have seen the film.  The final performance with the Les Muses de Montreal choir and Charlebois on the sage of the Quebec summer music festival will have you in sweet tears.

The movie Gabrielle has been rated R for some sexuality.  Those mature teens that have an open mind and would benefit from the content are encouraged to attend.  The film is shown in Canadian French with English subtitles.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An excellent film that shows immense passion for life and love. (A)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, Alexandre Landry, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Vincent-Guillaume Otis, Benoît Gouin
Directed and Written by: Louise Archambault
Genre: Drama, Music, Romance, Foreign
Language: French Canadian with English Subtitles
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality
Running Time: 1 hr 44 min
Release Date: April 18, 2014
Distributed by: Entertainment One

*Williams Syndrome is a genetic disorder, present at birth, which can affect anyone.  Medical and developmental problems, including cardiovascular disease and learning disabilities, typically occur – but side-by-side with striking abilities.  These include advanced verbal skills, highly sociable personalities and an affinity for music. Please visit the Williams Syndrome website at http://williams-syndrome.org/ws .

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