If Michel Gondry is good at one thing, it’s making smaller, more artsy-type films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (one of my favorites). He’s less good at making bigger-budget movies like The Green Hornet (which was just ok), but that can be forgiven because once more we have Gondry back at the helm of an eccentric film, where he should always be. Mood Indigo (originally L’ecume des jours), which I originally saw back in April during the D.C. Film Festival, is romantic fantasy at its best and retains Michel Gondry’s artistic ability very well.
Colin (Romain Duris) has everything anyone could ever want in life. He’s handsome, well-off financially, charming, and spends his time eating fantastic food by his friend and chef Nicolas (Omar Sy). But what Colin still wants to have is love. So he goes to a party, where he’s set up with Chloe (Audrey Tautou) and they’re immediately taken with each other. It’s a quick and sweet romance, the two so endearing together you might want to just keep watching them forever.
After getting married, however, Chloe develops an illness where a water lily has settled in her lungs and creates complications for her. What is meant to be the honeymoon period of their wedding turns into a desperate attempt to help Chloe get better. Colin tries everything, his money flying out the window on flowers (because the doctor says it tames the illness), in loans to his friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh), whose obsession with writer Jean Sol-Partre isolates everyone, and other medical treatments for his wife.
The film, based on author Boris Vian’s “Froth on the Daydream,” is fantastical in all the right ways. I have never read the book so cannot rightly compare it to the film, but Gondry drives the movie through his use of inventive creativity and interesting characters. The movie, without any of the fantasy elements, wouldn’t work as well simply because the realism of the world would root it to the ground too much and take away from its magical elements and energy.
The film starts off in high speed, all color and inventiveness, romance and fun. As the movie moves forward and Chloe’s illness takes hold, the movie begins its slow descent into the agony and pain that the sickness creates all around the characters. All the flowers wilt, the world isn’t as bright, and the movie itself begins to lose its color, until the final scenes are entirely in black and white.
Gondry has always had a way with making a film feel realistic, even when certain events in the film are not. With Mood Indigo, Gondry is truly cognicent of his film and portrays the humanistic all within the realm of the fantastical. The characters are sympathetic, going through the same emotions we’ve all been through at some point or other: happiness, despair, hope and the loss of it. Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris are so very endearing together and have fantastic chemistry. You’ll wish that all the happier moments of the film last longer than they do because you’ll want to join on the energy buzzing all around.
The film might come off as slightly over-the-top, but is able to contain all the crazy without overwhelming you with it. There are animated objects, flying pods, and a high energy, all integrated with tragedy, and enough of it to create a relatively good balance. The film teeters on giving more background story for Colin’s friend Chick, but that aspect of the plot falls through the cracks, almost, but not quite, unnoticed. Regardless, the film is a fantastical romance that you won’t forget so easily.