Gilles' Wife

Internal emotions and silent suffering lie at the heart of Gilles' Wife, the new movie from Frederic Fonteyne (A Pornographic Affair, Max et Bobo). The centerpiece of Gilles' Wife is French actress Emmanuelle Devos (Kings and Queen, Read My Lips). Devos gives a powerful performance of a woman trying to hold her marriage together, but not sure how to do so. The film, based on the novel by Madeleine Bourdouxhe, is set in rural France of the 1930s. The role of women was different then than it is today. They had fewer options, especially when confronted with infidelity.

Elisa (Devos) lives with her husband Gilles (Clovis Cornillac, A Very Long Engagement, Doo Wop) and two young daughters. As portrayed by Fonteyne, life is simple, almost idyllic. Their cottage is beautiful, and for the most part, their life is carefree. She takes care of the children and cleans the house during the day while he is away at work. All of a sudden, Gilles begins acting strangely. He leaves at night and comes home extremely late. He is terse, and refuses to talk to Elisa. Elisa believes he is having an affair, and begins following him. Gilles is having an affair with Elisa's sister Victorine (Laura Smet, Eager Bodies).

The revelation is devastating. It is destroying Elisa on the inside, but she still attempts to maintain an outward appearance of serenity. Devos has large eyes and an expressive face, so she can easily express a wide variety of emotions without saying a word. She is able to combine intense emotions of sadness, futility, and just a bit of hope. Fonteyne, who adapted the novel with Philippe Blasband (Nathalie..., The Raveshki Tango) and Marion Hansel (Clouds: Letters to My Son, The Quarry) keep things pretty minimal. There isn't much dialogue, and not much happens. This puts the emotional burden of Gilles' Wife squarely onto Devos. The viewer sees every moment, and how every new act of indignity crushes her even further. Still, she cares for her husband, and tries her best to keep her marriage together. After Gilles discovers that Elisa knows, he still continues to see Victorine, which makes the situation even sadder. Devos easily carries the movie with her performance, taking the sadness of the situation and almost making it poetic.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 43 minutes, French with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains minor nudity, sensuality, and mature themes, right on the border of PG-13 and R.

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