Gemma Bovery (3 stars)

Gemma Bovery

Gemma Arterton shines in this gently humorous, modern twist on Flaubert's novel

Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) takes the helm of a pleasantly witty film inspired by Gustave Flaubert’s once scandalous Madame Bovary. Based on the graphic novel by Tamara Drewe author Posy Simmonds, it's been adapted for the screen by Fontaine and Pascal Bonitzer and the result is a light and fluffy lampooning of both the middle classes and the male gaze, featuring a great performance from the ever-charming Gemma Arterton in the title role.

Baker Martin (Fabrice Luchini – all raised eyebrows and pouting disapproval) is an ex-Parisian and fan of the literary classics living in a village in Normandy. When an English couple with the surname Bovery move in across the road from him he becomes obsessed with the comings and goings of Gemma.

Gemma enters into a fling with a rich younger man Hervé (Niels Schneider) and reacquaints herself with old flame Patrick (Mel Raido), with her husband Charlie (Jason Flemyng) blind to it all. Meanwhile Martin’s boredom with the provincial life leads him to fixate on Gemma with some terrible consequences. The wonderful Edith Scob also appears as Hervé’s displeased mother and steals every scene she's in.

Seeing everything through Martin’s eyes pushes Gemma’s sexual discovery to the margins which, disappointingly, lessens the emphasis on her journey. But Fontaine delicately draws out the humour of the situation by portraying Martin as a somewhat pathetic puppy dog when it comes to women. His wife Valérie (Isabelle Candelier) provides some hearty laughs each time she calls him out on his transparent infatuation, as does his son who he chides for his obsession with computer games.

Despite their cartoonish depiction, name-dropping neighbours Wizzy (Elsa Zylberstein) – a French Anglophile – and her English husband Rankin (Pip Torrens) provide an effective counterpoint to the Boverys, with their snobbish attitudes creating a clear fission. And culture clashes between the English residents and the natives also provoke solid titters, with Luchini nailing the eye-rolling and seething resentment of a Frenchman confronted with romanticised notions about the good life abroad.

General release from Fri 21 Aug.

Gemma Bovery

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • France / UK
  • 1h 39min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Anne Fontaine
  • Cast: Gemma Arterton, Fabrice Luchini, Jason Flemyng
  • UK release: 7 August 2015

When the Boverys, an English couple, move to a Normandy village, scandal soon threatens to happen. Pleasantly witty adaptation of Posy Simmonds' graphic novel, with a great performance from Arterton in the title role and fine work from the strong supporting cast.