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Gemma Bovery


Stars: Gemma Arterton, Jason Flemyng, Fabrice Luchini, Niels Schneider, Pip Torrens, Elsa Zylberstein, Edith Scob, Isabelle Candelier

Director: Anne Fontaine

Arterton is hot all right here, which is alas more than can be said of her film, a daft comedic riff (set, as before, in France) on the Flaubert classic about a passionate woman who seeks sexual satisfaction away from her dullard husband. And, though Gemma is lovely to look at, she tends to act petulant and coltish rather than as a victim of sexual desire.

But then this is a comedy, based on Posy Simmonds' pastiche of the original. And it has pleasant Normandy settings and a whimsical performance by Luchini as the elderly baker who sees the whole story being re-enacted before his eyes, envisioning himself as the begetter of some of its events.

Unfortunately, director Fontaine wants to show the story's erotic sex scene and its tragic aftermath, but doesn't want us to take them seriously. This is tricky, and, as a result, her film lurches unsteadily between (unfunny) comedy and (unaffecting) drama, as Gemma starts a tempestuous affair with a local bright young thing (Schneider) for much less apparent reason than in previous versions, notably the staid Jennifer Jones film of the late 1940s, and a steamier continental version with the very hot Edwige Fenech in the late 1960s.

No, this one's probably for Arterton worshippers (and perhaps lovers of the French countryside) only.

David Quinlan

France 2014. UK Distributor: Soda (Gaumont/BFI). Technicolor.
99 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 16 Aug 2015