AFI Fest: Gabrielle (★★★)

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Gabrielle_PosterIt’s easy to forget how lucky we are that we get to live our lives by our own choices. We have full control over what we do, where we live, and who we chose to love. “Gabrielle” helps to remind us of this precious gift by showing what it is like for people who are not as fortunate, but desire to at least share in our freedoms.

Focusing on Gabrielle, a 22-year-old with special needs, the film sees her fall in love with a boy from her program and attempt to have as close to a normal relationship as they can. It is a heartwarming film that is hard to find fault in, but there is a disconnect that can’t be gapped because we can’t fully sympathize with Gaby.

It has to be said how amazing Gabrielle Marion-Rivard is in this film. Her and all the other actors that portray the characters at the Center are truly remarkable to watch. They aren’t just there to contribute to the film’s authenticity, they bring a unique quality to their portrayals, both charming and heartbreaking. Marion-Rivard in particular, is a joy to watch.

That being the case, it doesn’t change the fact that the audience can’t fully understand all the emotions of the story. With Gabrielle as the true focus of the piece, both plotwise and emotionally, we can only observe. None of us know exactly what it is like to be in Gabrielle’s shoes, and as much as we can sympathize with her desire to be independent, the fact of that being a near impossibility never leaves the recess.

The film counters that by offering the story of Gabrielle’s sister Sophie, who is her guardian. Sophie desires to live her own life with her fiancée in India, but fears leaving Gabrielle. The sisters share the emotional load, but it leans toward Gaby, which keeps it from resonating completely with those who have no experience in this subject matter.

Even so, you don’t have a heart if you watch “Gabrielle” and don’t smile and are charmed as you exit the theater. Director Louise Archambualt’s second feature film is a gem; perhaps it doesn’t shine the brightest, but it is still precious. Canada has a strong contender for their foreign language selection in this year’s Oscars.