16 Oct Gabrielle (Canada)
SUNDAY 22 March 10.00 am
TUESDAY 24 March 8.15 pm
RUNNING TIME 102 minutes
Gabrielle is a young woman with Williams syndrome who has a contagious joie de vivre and an exceptional musical gift. Since she met her boyfriend Martin (Alexandre Landry) at the recreation centre where they are choir members, they have been inseparable. However, because they are “different”, their loved ones are fearful of their relationship. As the choir prepares for an important music festival, Gabrielle does everything she can to gain her independence. As determined as she is, Gabrielle must still confront other people’s prejudices as well as her own limitations in the hope of experiencing an extraordinary love with Martin.
REVIEW BY LOUISE KELLER
Music is the emotive backdrop on which this moving portrait of a disabled woman eager to explore the boundaries of her capabilities and sexual desires is set. There’s an inherent simplicity about the emotions expressed in Louise Archambault’s uplifting film and the raw honesty with which the characters (a beguiling blend of abled and disabled actors) confront their issues, pierces through the artifice.
It’s no coincidence that the song the choir of disadvantaged singers (The Muses of Montreal) has selected to perform at a music festival with well known Quebec singer Robert Charlebois is called Ordinary. No-one is ordinary in this film.
To begin with, our hearts open up to Gabrielle, the 22 year old who yearns for independence and love, endearingly played by Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, who is a Williams syndrome sufferer. We get a sense of Gabrielle’s life, living in a facility that offers structure and care. But it is when she starts singing in the choir that she (like the other choir members) suddenly comes to life, creating wonderful notes and intervals through the harmonies. Not every note may be tone perfect, but there is a certain beauty and magic that results – from the voices and the faces. Something comes from within as voices soar, eyes sparkle and body language is expressed. ‘Sing your pain; let it out,’ says the teacher (Benoit Gouin).
Two key relationships are explored – with Gabrielle’s caring sister Sophie (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, excellent) and that with Martin (Alexandre Landry, superb), who becomes more than a friend. It is the development of the latter that forms the film’s heart.
Dinosaur jokes, ice cream, hamsters, toasted cheese sandwiches, swimming and discos are some of the elements that feature in Gabrielle’s story. None are more powerful, though, than the element of music, which brings a happy sprinkling of real magic.