I really wanted to like this film more
by Martin Hafer
I love French films and have seen, perhaps, a couple thousand, which is definitely a lot for an American. So, I jumped at the chance to review Valley of Love. After all, two actors who I have enjoyed in many French movies star in this production, Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu and I was excited to see them again. Plus, sadly, too often actors in their golden years disappear from films, so it was wonderful to see folks in their 60s in starring roles. And, I must say, the film did not over-glamorize them, particularly Depardieu. He’s definitely put on weight over the years and appears in boxer shorts during much of the film, a great way to say ‘to hell with the world’s obsession over weight, beauty and age’! Unfortunately, while I applaud the film for using these folks and de-glamorizing them, the script itself left me very, very cold.
The film is set in Death Valley, California in November. The folks continually complain through the course of the film how oppressively hot it is there, but this is only during the awful summer months when temperatures soar well over 49 Celsius (120 Fahrenheit). Despite what the film says, Novembers are lovely there with average temperatures 25C/77F. So, ignore this mistake in the film, this huge national park is not all that inhospitable in the Fall. Plus the vistas are stark but lovely.
The film begins with Isabelle staying at some resort…waiting. You aren’t sure why but soon see that she’d joined by her -ex, Gérard. Slowly you learn the very strange reason they are there. Apparently, six months earlier, their son killed himself, leaving a very strange letter for each of them. In the letter he promises that if they follow his itinerary exactly in November, he will briefly re-appear to them! This is very strange to say the least and it’s pretty obvious that Gérard holds little stock in all this…though he did inexplicably agree to join Isabelle. Through much of their time together, the two are a miserable pair–rarely agreeing on anything and they are a rather crabby couple. It seems pretty obvious why they are no longer together and that they were lousy parents to their son.
What follows is an odd and somewhat surreal film, and one that leaves the viewer very confused as to what actually has occurred. The ending is incredibly vague and the entire film left me dissatisfied. I didn’t mind the vague ending as much as I just felt like the film wasted some terrific talent and could have done so much more with the characters. It’s also rather depressing and not particularly enjoyable to watch. Not a terrible film, but one that I really wanted to love more.
Valley of Love will be released by Strand Releasing on 14 June 2016 . Details here: strandreleasing.com