To say that I’ve been looking forward to watching this film is an understatement. I instantly fell in love with the trailer and all of its quirkiness, its lead characters and the idea of a love story taking place in this strange and magical setting. Therein lays the problem with Mood Indigo as it presents itself as a romantic comedy that takes a serious twist, but how serious… you don’t know until you watch it. With it being a Michel Gondry film I didn’t expect it to be a traditional romantic comedy by any means, especially with Audrey Tautou in a lead role and the incredible amount of work she’s done so that she wouldn’t be known as “the girl who played Amelie” for her entire career. All of these things that sound great on paper just seem to fight against themselves for the entire film.
The film begins by showing us the eccentric life of Colin, played by Romain Duris. He is an inventor though not by trade and his wealth is never explained. It’s just there. His apartment can only be described as magical as his chef/lawyer/friend Nicolas, played by Omar Sy, receives help cooking from a chef in a TV that at one point reaches through to take care of preparation. We’re introduced to Colin’s friend Chick, played by Gad Elmaleh, and learn that he’s obsessed with a writer/speaker and at his last outing meet a woman. The woman turns out to be Nicolas’ niece. Eventually we get to the point where the man who has everything, Colin, doesn’t have love. He sets out to find love with the help of his friends, but attending a fancy party that a girl Nicolas is dating, is hosting.
There he meets Chloe, played by Audrey Tautou, and they continue from there. Really that’s how I would describe their relationship, they continue from there. There isn’t really a moment in which you see the spark of love, rather the story just continues with them being “in love” and smiling and giggling. Eventually they wed and due to a series of events that they cause themselves, Chloe becomes sick.
A doctor is fetched and like the rest of the movie he’s not what you would think of when calling for a doctor. He tells the couple that Chloe has a water-lily growing in her lung. She’s put on bed rest and can only drink two spoonfuls of water a day and must surround herself with flowers to scare the water-lily off. The once wealthy Colin must now get a job because he’s spent his fortune on the wedding and friends and now there isn’t enough for the treatment and their life after.
This is where the film takes a dark turn and stays there. There is never an upside, think of a bad day where things just continue to get worse and worse and you wonder when it will stop? When is enough, enough? That’s the rest of the movie in a nutshell.
It ends abruptly and without closure, just like life. I can’t assume to know what message Gondry was going for, but my take on it is pretty cut and dry: love can cause you to die alone and poor. Now Gondry does in a way capture the realistic journey of some romantic endeavors, there’s no denying that. Some relationships are going to see one of the couple get sick and the other spend and sacrifice to get them better. Mood Indigo just takes that journey and speeds up the process jumping from happy to sad in no time flat. It suffers because of that though. It suffers from its message because in trying to capture a side of love that has never been shown on film before it forgot the most important element… love.
When Chloe gets sick her relationship with Colin changes and since we only saw them at the beginning stages of their puppy dog relationship, there’s nothing to build upon from there. Its puppy love to sad instantly, but the film never shows that spark. Colin comes across as trying to save Chloe because he’s invested time and money into being with her and not so much because he loves her. Chloe does show some resentment towards Colin for all that he’s doing for her, but his actions feel forced so her response feels unwarranted and uncharacteristic.
There is no love in this love story. Hell, I don’t even know if it’s supposed to be a love story anymore. It sure seems like it given the nature of the story and the constant mention of romantic relationships and the word “love.” At the end of the day it suffers from its own art. There’s too much focus on the world and making it strange yet cute, that the story and characters get lost somewhere along the way.
The strange thing is that by knowing what the film is and isn’t and changing your expectations, it’s possibly that someone else could have a much better first experience with this film than I did. Perhaps if I had read Boris Vian’s novel in which the film is adapted from I would have had a different idea going into the film, but hopefully my experience will help give someone else a better experience when they watch it. Just keep in mind that the title is really trying to describe the film the best it can, you just can't know what it means until you've seen it for yourself.
Director: Michel Gondry Writers: Michel Gondry & Luc Bossi Stuido: Drafthouse Films Run Time: 94 Mins Release Date: 7/18/14