As a frustrated dreamer who all but trembles with desire, Marion Cotillard delivers one of her most compelling performances in “From the Land of the Moon.” Almost no one in the film who encounters her fevered Gabrielle knows what to do with the character’s desire — and, to an extent, neither does director Nicole Garcia. Her lush period drama equates hyper-romance with both self-realization and delusion, a proposition that proves more muddled than illuminating.
The film unfolds as a long flashback in which Gabrielle recalls her arranged marriage in post-WWII rural France to a salt-of-the-earth Catalan bricklayer (Álex Brendemühl, underused but pitch-perfect), and her brief romance with an ailing military man.
All too pointedly named André Sauvage, the enervated veteran is played by Louis Garrel, who delivers yet another variation of his patented brand of ennui as the supposed answer to Gabrielle’s fervid prayers. In the Swiss spa where they meet, she fixates on him with a longing bordering on derangement.
If not for Cotillard’s pulsating intensity, Gabrielle’s unhinged single-mindedness would be exasperating. Garcia never gets a grasp on her protagonist’s contradictions, or those of her story — certainly not enough to pull off the movie’s jaw-dropper of a twist. But she conjures a powerful sensuality, and Cotillard burns ferociously bright, even when the center does not hold.
‘From the Land of the Moon’
Rating: R, for some strong sexuality and graphic nudity
Running time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Playing: Laemmle’s Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena