GabyTopWonderful French Canadian film by writer/director Louise Archambault about a high-functioning, developmentally disabled woman (Marion-Rivard). Now 22, Gabrielle wants her loved ones to respect her need for some autonomy – including love – in her life.

Serious yet upbeat, and full of gorgeous music provided by Canadian Superstar Robert Charlebois. (JLH: 4.5/5)

Click HERE for FF2 Haiku.  NOT YET SEEN BY RICH.


Mildly retarded but high functioning, “Gabrielle” (Gabrielle Marion-Rivard) belongs to The Muses, a choir consisting of about a dozen other developmentally challenged adults. When we first meet them, The Muses are practicing for an upcoming music festival to be headlined by Canadian Superstar Robert Charlebois.

Gabrielle, who is 22, has fallen in love with a slightly older and very handsome young man named “Martin” (Alexandre Landry). Martin, another member of The Muses, stands beside her during practice, and the heat of his passion for her is palpable. Like Gabrielle, Martin is also highly functional, with impulse control and cognitive problems, but able to work regularly, first at a pet store and later as a carpenter’s apprentice.

The relationship between Gabrielle and Martin is very beautiful—gentle and affectionate—but their loved ones also find it heartbreaking because both members of this new couple are so comprised physically, emotionally, and intellectually.

Gabrielle’s sister “Sophie” (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) has long been her primary caretaker, shouldering the burden of Gabrielle’s emotional needs long after their mother placed Gabrielle in a residential group home. But Sophie, who is also slightly older than Gabrielle, has her own needs.  Her finance has taken a challenging assignment in India, and he wants Sophie to join him there as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Martin’s mother, concerned that Gabrielle and Martin are on the verge of a sexual relationship, wants to separate them before any irrevocable consequences can occur. Of course this upsets Gabrielle, and that increases her dependence on Sophie just when Sophie has finally decided to move one with her own life.

The magic of Gabrielle is how well-done it is. The actors, especially Gabrielle Marion-Rivard (who actually suffers from a neurological disorder called Williams Syndrome) are all excellent, and each one of the main character arcs is well-drawn and fully believable. There are no villains here. Even the two mothers, who might have been portrayed as witches, have compelling points of view. It is clear that they are both acting out of a combination of love and concern, and their concerns are very real.

The emotional texture of Gabrielle is pulled aloft by the songs of Robert Charlebois. His music is lush, but his lyrics have a subtle bite. The Muses rehearse and rehearse until, in the grand finale, they are on stage behind him at the big festival, singing back-up. At this point writer/director Louise Archambault transforms Charlebois into a benevolent god-like figure who ensures that somehow, regardless of any pain along the way, all will continue to be right with the world.

Review © Jan Lisa Huttner (7/9/14)

Top Photo: Gabrielle Marion-Rivard as “Gabrielle” and Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin as “Sophie.”

Bottom Photo: Gabrielle Marion-Rivard as “Gabrielle” with Vincent William Otis as “Remi” (music teacher and choir director of The Muses).

Q #1: Does Gabrielle pass the Bechdel test? DigitalStampA

Yes! The depth and strength of the relationship between Gabrielle and Sophie is critical to the success of Gabrielle.

There is also a very important confrontation between Sophie and their mother. Sophie tells their mother that she has basically abandoned Gabrielle’s care to her, and she convinces her (the mother who never gets a name) that Gabrielle is now a woman and she–the mother—must learn to deal with that fact.

Of course this requires that they discuss Gabrielle’s relationship with Martin, but the conversation is not about Martin; it’s about Gabrielle. Sophie convinces their mother that Gabrielle can’t be treated like a child anymore. She has a right to a life that is as autonomous as it can possibly be under the circumstances, but this can only work if everyone agrees to play their own part with an open heart. (This message resonates when the two mothers finally meet-up. We don’t have to hear everything they say. We can guess.)

There are also minor scenes that show Gabrielle in her workplace as she gathers paper from the office wastebaskets and makes sure that all paper waste is shredded before it is taken out to the trash. She works mostly with women and the women in her workplace clearly adore her. And finally there is a sweet little scene at the pet store. Gabrielle goes there looking for Martin but he isn’t there, so she has a chat with another woman who works there. These scenes help round out Gabrielle’s character by showing her as an actor in the world. Gabrielle is challenged, yes, but she is also a full participant in the day-to-day world that surrounds her.

Q #2: Who is Robert Charlebois?

The “big star” who headlines the concert at the end (with The Muses choir—including Gabrielle and Martin—backing him up) is 70-year-old Quebec actor and composer Robert Charlebois, who appears as himself in Gabrielle.

Click HERE to listen to Robert Charlesbois sing “Lindberg” (a song prominently featured in the film).

Click HERE to purchase CD above which contains “Lindberg” & much more 🙂



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