Adopting the premise of Gustave Flaubert’s classic novel ‘Madame Bovary’ and skewering it ever so slightly for a modern audience, ‘Gemma Bovery’ is a simple, light-hearted drama of sorts that exudes enough charm to keep it afloat over the course of its minimal 100 minute runtime.
Gemma Arterton (one of the main reasons this film succeeds) stars as the titular Gemma Bovery who, along with her husband Charles (Jason Flemyng), moves to a small French village where she almost immediately makes her presence known. With their names ringing true to the lead characters of the novel, a Flaubert enthusiast in the town, Martin Joubert (Fabrice Luchini), finds their arrival all the more fascinating, and as he engages with the couple, he can’t but feel drawn to Gemma, whose behaviour is starting to mimic that of Madame Bovary to the point where she is drifting into the perilous situations that were ultimately her namesake’s undoing.
Those familiar with the original novel will be aware of how it all unfolds, and that perhaps may make this film all the more interesting – or predictable depending how you view it – and if you aren’t, it’s more likely this will come as a surprise package with an ending you may or may not appreciate. Though billed as a comedy/drama, ‘Gemma Bovery’ doesn’t offer anything overly humourous or distinctly dramatic, but it gets by on its European charm, somehow managing to make the tale of a silly woman making horrible decisions watchable.
As is the case with most French films, there’s gloriousness to how they see women, and ‘Gemma Bovery’ is no exception with the utterly intoxicating Gemma Arterton stealing focus in a rather effortless fashion. Though it’s an uneventful film however you look at it, there’s still an air of charm that prevents it from being a bore, and if nothing else the French countryside is a delight to view.