Valley of Love
Directed by Guillaume Nicloux
A story of two famous actors who used to be a couple. They reunite after the son's death and receive a letter asking them to visit five places at Death Valley, which will make the son reappear.
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★★★★ review by Wilson on Letterboxd
Waiting on Gaspar. Or maybe Foie Gras on Hanging Rock. Valley of Love may look like an old-age Richard Linklater film, or a rom-com for your parents. But it is actually a strange, existential nightmare, posing as a sunny, famous person starring romp. It plays with the weight of its casting. Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert brings an aeon of star power to the film, Huppert as lithe and brilliant as she has ever been, while Depardieu lumbers with the greatness of a singularly vanity free actor. Huppert is flinty, while Depardieu's eyes do most of the work. The film has a despairing score, in a desolate landscape. The film mines humour in the culture-clash American setting, but this drifts away with the ambiguous ending, leaving you puzzled but impressed.
★★★½ review by Lawrence Garcia on Letterboxd
Opens with a lovely tracking shot that sets the tone for the rest of the film, a mix of quiet naturalism and mysticism/spirituality (signalled mainly by the score) that hits the balance needed to push it from coy into genuinely moving. Quite impressive that the contrived scenario never really feels contrived, mainly because of the two leads and some lovely touches in the script; the way the conversations vacillate between animosity and affection communicates both their previous intimacy and subsequent estrangement. (Also manages to never really fall into glib therapy-movie territory.) Would understandably feel slight to those who aren't moved, but it strikes me as a more trenchant exploration of rationalism vs mysticism/spirituality as it relates to (parental) grief than, say, Don't Look Now (which shares the same themes, albeit with a wildly different approach). Would love this if the ending were a bit stronger, and if the script found a better way of emphasizing the duo's dislocation than the scenes with the Americans, but the film's critical dismissal is rather disheartening. (Of the Cannes competition titles, this was the one I heard the least about.) It's admittedly "small", both in scale and ambition, but touching all the same.
★★★½ review by Kapten Grogg on Letterboxd
Anchored by two of the best performances of 2015, Valley of Love is a mysterious oddity that seems to be a bit unsure which genre(s) it wants to be part of, which leads to captivating results. What starts as a fairly traditional drama—two divorced movie stars reunite to mourn the death of their son—takes on increasing science fiction tones as the film progresses, replete with strange visions, mysterious circumstances, and a touch of surrealism. That this unsettling paranormality could be united with emotional catharsis in a single film is fascinating, but that they could be combined in the same shot is little short of a revelation. At one point in Valley of Love, the camera slowly zooms in on Isabelle Huppert's crying face as she reads a letter from her late son, the shadows in the background seeming to close in on her in an Expressionistic manner. At another, a sad Huppert takes up the right half of the frame, while a blurry figure approaches the camera from afar on the left. The melodrama never overtakes the film, for question marks remain overhead for the entire runtime. Such a rich work will surely stay with me for some time.
★★★★ review by nsh on Letterboxd
Seeing Isabelle Huppert eating a microwave meal in a motel bed while watching HGTV is what cinema was made for.
★★★★½ review by taurusvenus on Letterboxd
Well, I must say: I did not expect this to be as good as it is!
Watching Valley of Love, I couldn’t help but think of Personal Shopper, my favourite film of 2017. While there are a number of intellectual reasons to admire both of these films, I feel for me it’s more emotional and, well, personal.
It’s hard to describe the change in spiritual interaction after losing a loved one. And it’s terrifying to discuss it with someone who can’t actually relate.
Maybe here is not the place to try to express these inexpressible feelings. All I can say is I loved Valley of Love. I didn’t know how much I needed Isabelle and Gérard to reminisce about their dead gay son, but I really did!
After seeing Loulou and now this, Huppert and Depardieu are really great together. Honestly, I’d call both of their performances here major works. Equally amusing and quite moving.
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