Madame Bovary (2015)

 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

Based on the "scandalous" novel, this story is a quietly-moving drama centered around an adventurous young woman weary of the constraints of society in a small community.

 

Emma (Mia Wasikowska) has entered into her marriage to a country doctor idealistic, praying he is "the one" and that her life outside the convent school will be full of happiness. Before long, she is settled into the house and seeking amusements... daydreaming about improvements to make in the garden, and longing to visit places she has never been. Her husband Charles (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) is a man of far simpler tastes and pleasures, who cannot understand her desires for more than the provincial circumstances around her. And so, when she meets a young romantic idealist, her heart is easily kindled. Emma refrains from indulging in an affair, and instead gives in to the flattering attentions of a local "provider of fine objects," Monsieur Lheureux (Rhys Ifans). Once he convinces her that all the joys of life can be hers, with no money down, she embarks on remodeling the house and indulging her fantasies.

 

Then, another dashing young man enters her life, this one with greater insights into her innermost desires... and we watch Emma's spiral into self-destruction, in a story both that explores the depths of the human heart's innermost desires, the whims of fortune, and condemns the indulgences of "credit." There are many ways you can interpret Madame Bovary in its original form and its various film incarnations; but ultimately it comes down to a bad marital mismatch, the follies of trusting strangers too easily, and the whims of a romantic heart. Many actresses over-play this character, but Mia strikes just the right chord of intense yearning and quiet suffering. She is distant, but likable, an earnest heroine innocently treading into dangerous waters, and our heart aches for her as she discovers the consequences of her mistakes.

 

Everything about this production is exquisite, and the cast is very good; the first twenty or so minutes fully capture her increasing boredom with such a tedious existence, utterly unfulfilled and isolated from the ideas that give her imagination flight. Figures pass in and out of her life, some of them cads and others well-meaning fools of sentiment, a few too ambitious for their own good, as she struggles to obtain her desires while failing to connect in any tangible way to her husband. It is a story about the death of innocence as much as the romanticism of the heart, a tragedy that slowly unfurls over the course of two hours. The pacing is at times mildly slow, but the costumes, music, and performances are wonderful.

     
Sexual Content:
Two fairly long and graphic sex scenes (movement, sounds); a woman lies in bed with a man and the covers do not cover her naked breasts (they kiss and talk to one another). Other implications of adulterous affairs.
 
Language:
None.
 
Violence:
A character drinks poison and dies. A man has his foot amputated (off screen). A stag is killed (off screen); we see his head and skin being dragged away, leaving the dogs to feast on the carcass; Emma is presented with one of his severed hooves as a trophy.

 
Other:
None.