Film

Gabrielle Is a Sensitive Second Feature From Pouise Archambault

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Pouise Archambault’s sensitive second feature tells the story of Gabrielle (Gabrielle Marion-Rivard), a young woman with Williams syndrome who is passing into adulthood, and all the trials and tribulations — living alone, taking care of yourself, finding love — that accompany that journey.

Twenty-two-year-old Gabrielle lives in a group housing unit in Montreal and is a member of Les Muses, a choir for singers with cognitive disabilities. Rehearsing at a local community center, she gravitates toward Martin (Alexandre Landry), and the two quickly join in a laser-focused and euphoric relationship.

Marion-Rivard, along with most of the choir members we see in the film, is a non-professional actor; Archambault cast her while developing the story after a period observing Les Muses. Much of the pain and joy of the members’ lives are projected naturally in the rehearsal room, and Archambault films in such a way that the professional actors merge with them seamlessly: Landry’s Martin is a believable boyfriend, tender and devoted; Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin (who starred in fellow Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve’s moving Incendies) is both stern and empathetic as Gabrielle’s responsible older sister.

Most importantly, Archambault has a rare light in Marion-Rivard, whose wide smile is infectious: When she sulks, it feels like the whole world is tumbling down. The film is unpretentious to a fault, and consequently stumbles occasionally; the sex scenes drag a little, and a few treacly soundtrack selections grate in contrast with the heartfelt music delivered by Les Muses.

But Archambault is fluent in small, self-contained moments. Even as their guardians are forced into difficult conversations, Gabrielle and Martin’s private exchanges ring true.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 2, 2014

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