Trying to find an angle from which to critique Guillaume Nicloux’s “Valley of Love” proves quite frustrating. It’s neither particularly good nor egregiously bad. It features well-calibrated but not quite stunning performances from its two leads, Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu. Cinematography, editing and directorial choices are present, interesting but nothing to add much flavor to the bland proceedings.
The film finds its characters, exes Isabelle and Gerard, as they convene in Death Valley following the instructions of their estranged son’s suicide note. His cryptic message indicates that he will, somehow, resurface. The setup sounds interesting, but Nicloux never really does much to take it beyond a “Waiting for Godot”-lite exercise of futility for the former lovers. The movie is content to let them mill about in their present misery, making lateral movements rather than directional ones.
Without giving away the ending itself, “Valley of Love” concludes with a back-and-forth of close-ups between Isabelle and Gerard. I can imagine a version of this film where such faces could be laden with such intense meaning, loaded with such passion or informed by the iconography of these two stars. Instead, the end just plays like the kind of thing made by someone who watched one too many cinephile video essays. With so many intriguing pieces at hand, the final arrangement fails to impress. C+ /