Playing as part of the Canada’s Top Ten line-up, as well as opening this week for its regular release, Gabrielle is a coming-of-age story about a young woman’s desire to live a normal life, despite her mental disability. Gabrielle (Gabrielle Marion-Rivard) is a young women with William’s Syndrome, who sings in a choir with other disabled individuals. Garbrielle finds herself falling in love with, fellow choir singer, Martin (Alexandre Landry), however the union is disapproved by Martin’s overprotective mother. Meanwhile, Gabrielle’s sister Sophie (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) is planning to travel to India to be with her boyfriend, but is afraid to leave Gabrielle to fend for herself. As the choir prepares to perform at a large music festival, Gabrielle tries to prove that she is an independent person free to make her own decisions about life.
From the producers of Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar, Gabrielle was the film chosen this year to be Canada’s submission for Best Foreign Language film at the Academy Awards. Even though the film ended up not making the shortlist, Gabrielle is still a quite heart warming coming-of-age story, which demonstrates that even mentally disabled people should be allowed to love. The film is built around the performance of lead actress Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, who truly has William’s Syndrome in real life. The use of real individuals with mental disabilities gives the film a certain level of realism, which makes for a very touching story.
While at its centre, the film is a coming-of-age love story, Gabrielle also goes into the many challenges disabled individuals face. Probably the biggest obstacle for Gabrielle and Martin’s love affair is the the prejudice from others, particularly Martin’s very overprotective mother, who don’t believe that people with mental disabilities can truly understand what falling in love really means. In addition, Gabrielle tries to prove that she is able to live independently, without the help of her sister or the group home she lives in. This proves to be difficult for Gabrielle, especially since is also suffering from diabetes and has to maintain her blood sugar.
Even though Gabrielle opts to leave some of these issues without a full resolution, it is still obvious by the end that both Gabrielle and Martin have grown as independent individuals. The film climaxes on a high note with Gabrielle and Martin’s choir performing with renowned Quebecois recording artist Robert Charlebois. It was definitely an entertaining way to conclude the film.
Overall, I have to say that Gabrielle was a very touching and heart-warming coming of age story. While I can probably understand why the Academy passed on the film for Oscar consideration, it was still a wonderful little film to watch.8 | LIKED IT