The Love of a Woman

This graceful romance is a fitting swan song for Jean Grémillon, one of France's finest filmmakers

Film Review by Ross McIndoe | 15 Sep 2017
Film title: The Love of a Woman
Director: Jean Grémillon
Starring: Micheline Presle, Massimo Girotti, Gaby Morlay, Paolo Stoppa
Release date: 21 Aug
Certificate: 12

How do you want to spend your life?

Fittingly, the final film of acclaimed French filmmaker Jean Grémillon is a meditation on this final question. At the point in his life and career to take stock of his achievements and wonder about the roads not travelled, the characters of The Love of a Woman carry out his inner conversations, gazing forward to wonder how they will look back on their lives when the end approaches.

Marie Prieur (Presle) arrives on the small island of Ushant to become the new island doctor, challenging local prejudices and winning the locals over with her medical talents and no-nonsense attitude. Presle’s brusque brightness energises the film, sweeping from house to house like a French Mary Poppins, making children take their medicine not because they’re promised a spoonful of sugar but because they have pneumonia and she is a doctor and she is an adult and they are children.  

Ushant itself presents Marie with a vision of time stretching out slowly before her. The man she replaces talks of his departure as the end of his life. The island's schoolteacher has watched generations of children grow up under her tutelage as decades slipped away. Panning lugubriously across vast, empty expanses, fading lazily between days and months, Ushant appears as a quietly pleasant place to watch your life disappear. There’s a gracefulness to every frame and also something deeply melancholy.

When Marie falls for a short-tempered engineer (Girotti), a crossroads awaits her: to seek meaning in the work she does, the skill with which she does it and the lives it touches, or to look for it in the love of another, protected from the lonely fate of the island spinsters.


Accompanying the new release is the feature length documentary In Search of Jean Grémillon – vital viewing for admirers of the French master. [Ross McIndoe]

Released by Arrow Video