Two of French cinema's most prolific performers, Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu, reunite to play an estranged couple meeting for the first time in years. Their photographer son, Michael, has requested they visit a series of remote locations outlined in a note prior to his suicide six months earlier. Respecting their son's wishes, they put their personal grievances to one side and proceed to confront the wounds of the past.
Valley of Love is a case study of Depardieu and Isabelle’s charm and witty comebacks as elder actors whose days of glory are long past gone. Still, their antics and mannerisms provide for an entertaining viewing despite some key flaws present in the script by both screenwriter and director Guillaume Nicloux, and translated by David H. Pickering for the English speaking audience. To sum it up: Valley of Love is an excellent French black comedy/drama flick that most audiences can survive without checking it off their planned repertoire list, but it’s nice for one to have seen it anyway.
The film features two famous French actors going by the names Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu, which most non-French speaking audiences will instantly recognize. Their on-screen charm and chemistry sees them playing an alternate version of their true personas, using aliases that in their entirety resonate with their true names: Isabelle and Gérard. Namely, the two stars come together yet again to celebrate what’s left of their mutual passion toward one another, but a strange letter from their son Michael makes them question everything they knew thus far.
So, in a way, Valley of Love imitates life, while the life Valley of Love imitates, in turn imitates art. It’s a whirlpool of emotion only two proven like Gérard and Isabelle can pull off, without it seeming too preachy or clandestine for its own sake.
In continuation, Valley of Love brings many memories from days long gone by, sprouting nostalgia like it’s no one’s business and spreading rumors as to why exactly these strange events occupy the lives of these very strange fictitious/real characters played by the recognizable French duo. Often times, G and I turn messy, surreal dialogue that no one would dare to utter in real life into one of the great banters of the 21-st century. Replace our two heroes with any other two faces instead, and they would inexplicably ruin what is an otherwise buttered, smooth ride toward a surreal end – French or no French.
Furthermore, Valley of Love packs fairly reasonable amounts of nostalgia to deliver a punch straight to your gut, or as some call it: a gut-wrenching drama. Viewers are not really sure as to what really happened and why: it’s as if those surreal elements of films like Amelie or La cité des enfants perdus somehow got their long overdue screen time, with which they infiltrated G and I’s minds and forced them to do, well, let’s say strange things.
Finally, Valley of Love’s ending can leave lot of people frustrated, because it doesn’t provide answers to questions raised earlier during the building of the plot. And for that reason only, it’s possible that Valley of Love would remain distant mystery for some potential viewers who want things to wrap up to a clear conclusion.
To conclude, with its mysterious and surreal atmosphere, music featuring pads that’re stretching across scenes and improvised dialogue between the two French stars that feels as natural as an everyday occurrence - Valley of Love is inarguably a real piece of cinema excellence.