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November 23, 2014

DVDFilm + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


It’s the classic story: Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Boy marries girl. Girl is struck by illness that causes a flower to grow in her lungs. It’s a tale as old as time. Mood Indigo is a whimsical romantic fantasy from the mind of Michel Gondry, who in the past has brought us films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep. But where those stories struck a balance between Gondry’s visual imagination and human emotion, this time around it feels like Mood Indigo has lost the fight to the visuals.

The plot follows Colin (Romain Duris), a wealthy bachelor who leads an aimless life, spending most of his time hanging around his nice apartment with cook and best friend Chick, and a friendly rat that lives in the walls. But that changes when he meets Chloe (Audrey Tautou) at a party, and they instantly fall in love. Soon they are married, and the future seems bright. But when Chloe is struck with a bizarre illness, Colin has to spend his fortune to find a cure, and their suffering seems to affect the world around them.

Gondry has always been an incredibly inventive filmmaker, and his films are loaded with creative visuals and scenes. And this is certainly true of Mood Indigo, which is positively loaded with hyperactive editing, dazzling set pieces and unique practical special effects. Stop motion eels slither out of taps, limbs elongate during a bizarre dance scene and a wedding sequence is filmed entirely underwater.

Every scene seems to have some interesting little flourish to it, and there’s a childish sense of fun at work. You almost get the impression that Gondry is using the movie as an outlet for ideas and images he’s had in his head for years.

But for all the impressive production design and visual sprinkles, the story just doesn’t connect. The actors do good work (poor Audrey Tautou seems to be permanently typecast as an adorable pixie), but Gondry seems to view the story as a distant second to his flights of fancy.

The film is light and fluffy in its early stages, and the sudden switch towards dreary depression in the second half feels jarring, and a little unearned. There is a nice visual touch to this section, as the colour slowly starts to fade and the sets start to decay to mimic the mood of the characters. But that’s all it is, a neat visual gimmick.


What’s worse is that it’s hard to know what the viewer is supposed to feel here. The first half is a charming but slight love story, which is driven by the director’s sense of style more than narrative. You like the characters, but you don’t form any real bond either. And then their sufferings in the second half comes across as jokey and glib instead of sincere, which distances you even further from what’s happening. Maybe this is intended to be tongue in cheek, and a parody of morose French dramas, but again it’s hard to tell the intent.

Mood Indigo is packed with imagination and energy, but the lack of connection with its characters only serves to remind how empty it ultimately is. Fans of Michel Gondry or the charming cast should seek it out, but this is definitely one of the talented director’s less satisfying efforts.

Mood Indigo is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 24th

Padraig Cotter