Winter 2014 Features series
Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 4:00pm
Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 7:00pm
Directed by Louise Archambault
Screenplay by Louise Archambault
Starring Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Alexandre Landry, and Gabrielle Marion-Rivard
Rated NR ·
Canada’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2014 Academy Awards, and produced by the team behind the Oscar nominated Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar, Louise Archambault’s Gabrielle is a stunning, tender film about a developmentally challenged young woman’s quest for independence and sexual freedom.
Living in a group home, musically talented Gabrielle (Gabrielle Marion-Rivard) has found love with Martin (Alexandre Landry), a fellow member of her choir. They want to explore their feelings for one another physically, but are not allowed. Convinced that living alone will allow her to have the intimate relationship she so desperately craves, Gabrielle tries valiantly to prove she can be independent.
As she did with Familia—which won Best Canadian First Feature at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival—Archambault displays her keen ability to distill the emotional currents of families at a crossroads. Gabrielle’s rock is her sister Sophie (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin; Incendies), who tries to help her but knows that full independence will never be possible because of her sister’s condition, Williams syndrome. Meanwhile, Sophie is facing her own life-altering decision. But Sophie and Gabrielle find immeasurable strength and inspiration in each other, unlike the troubled relationship the sisters have with their mother.
At the core of this film is the heartfelt performance by Marion-Rivard (who has Williams syndrome in real life). Gabrielle’s effusive giddiness is contagious, her drive unrelenting. As the choir works towards its big performance with Québec music legend Robert Charlebois, this turbulent, moving journey is furthered by Mathieu Laverdière’s ethereal cinematography. Gabrielle is a captivating film about tolerance and finding happiness, but, above all, it is a story of love.
“Louise Archambault’s heart-tugger fits into the solid market for well made, uplifting stories about individuals with special needs.” (Jay Weissberg, Variety)
“Gabrielle is at once a classical romance, in which outside forces keep two lovers apart, as well as the specific account of the hurdles two grown-up but disabled individuals in love must face. The frankness with which the film shows Gabrielle and Martin’s physical attraction could also generate some debate, though even those who might consider it voyeuristic or exploitative will have to admit that the arguments in favor of the couple’s love affair are greatly aided by the entirely natural depiction of the duo’s attraction.” (Boyd van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter)