Gabrielle (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Gabrielle is a lifeless, sterile, icy French talkfest which was adapted to the screen from The Return, a novella by Joseph Conrad.

Isabelle Huppert and Pascal Gregory play a prosperous bourgeois couple who seem to have a good relationship within a good life, at least superficially. They are actually just going through the motions, as if performing in a ballet. Conrad himself summed it up in this way: "'They skimmed over the surface of life hand in hand, in a pure and frosty atmosphere, like two skillful skaters ... disdainfully ignoring ... the hidden stream of life, profound and unfrozen." This choreographed routine is disrupted when the husband suddenly discovers that he has misunderstood everything about his wife's feelings for him. It comes as a complete surprise to him one day when his life leaves him a letter saying that she is leaving him for another man. It is equally surprising when she shows up at home four hours later, saying "never mind." Although she chose not to leave, the incident, and the repressed feelings it exposed, has a profound impact upon their relationship.

As you might well have expected. Conrad apparently had an astoundingly accurate grasp of the obvious.

The dramatic tension, if that is the right word here, derives from the ultimate outcome of their reconciliation. Will he choose to maintain appearances knowing that his wife doesn't care for him? Will she make an effort to make things work, or will she just go through the motions of being there? Will they try to understand each other better now and become more aware of one another's emotional needs, or will their relationship be doomed by the knowledge of years of deception?

Although the director made some effort to "open the film up" with some flashbacks and party scenes, and some interaction with household servants, the story plays out essentially as a two-character stage play, and the only essential elements of the drama consist of two passionless people conversing in a single confined space. The film is handsome, and undoubtedly has truths to tell, but the leaden atmosphere, too-subtle reliance on nuances and glances,  and the entire too-constricted concept will quickly put you to sleep unless you are a truly devoted member of the turtleneck set.



  • Cast  interviews
  • Deleted/extended scenes



Full frontal nudity from Isabelle Huppert

The Critics Vote ...

  • British consensus: two stars out of four. Telegraph 2/10, Independent 4/10, Guardian 6/10, Times 6/10, Express 6/10, FT 8/10, BBC 2/5.


The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. Arthouse. It grossed $332,000 in 12 theaters, beginning in the summer of 2006.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C, a completely competent movie aimed at an audience of about three people. It is cerebral, but has no visceral appeal, and no entertainment value at all.

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