Cannes Film Festival: Valley of Love

Directed by Guillaume Nicloux
Starring Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert

by Joanna Orland

With a contrived premise working against it, Valley of Love manages to withstand the heat due solely to heartfelt performances by Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu.

Long-divorced couple Isabelle and Gérard have reunited to honour their dead son Michael, who has committed suicide after suffering from depression.  Each parent has received a letter from Michael stating that they must together pilgrimage to the scalding hot Death Valley on specific dates, and if they do, he will appear to them.

Desperate for forgiveness and to rid the guilt they feel over Michael’s death, the couple agree to this task, Isabelle more whole-heartedly than Gérard.  Was it perhaps Michael’s intention to reunite his parents through forceful confrontation, or is there indeed something supernatural to his request?  The problem here is that the director alludes to the supernatural, perhaps intertwining it with doubts of heat-induced delerium – this contrived plot is the downfall of this film.  The saving grace is the relationship between Isabelle and Gérard, as well as the performances given by the film’s lead actors.

Both actors are captivating in their sensitive and honest portrayals of a couple with a past, united by their connection of a lost child.  Isabelle is alluring to watch and very true in her performance.  Gérard is even more earnest in his character, seeing Depardieu give a strong and reflective performance, more down to earth than anything he’s done of late.  Perhaps this is a modern career highlight for him.  The dynamic between the two actors and characters is key to the enjoyment of this film.

Contrived plot aside, Valley of Love is certainly a pleasure, due to the characters at its core and the actors who bring them to life.


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