Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

In the wrong hands Gabrielle could have seemed awkward or overly sentimental but Quebecois director/writer Louise Archambault avoids any of the obvious traps in her depiction of an unusual love between a young woman affected by Williams’ syndrome (an intellectual disability) and Martin, a boy she meets in the choir at her day centre.

As they prepare for an appearance at a music festival their affection grows and Gabrielle (the incredible Gabrielle Marion-Rivard) yearns to achieve a certain level of independence from her devoted sister, mother and carers.

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Archambault harnesses the skills of Gabrielle and the other characters with disabilities in a skilful and unobtrusive way and achieves a spontaneity that she would not have found with professional actors. Alexandre Landry, as Martin, is one of the few professionals in the cast; another is Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin as the older sister yearning to join her boyfriend Raphael (Sébastien Ricard) in India but held back by her concerns for her sibling.

Gabrielle displays remarkable reserves of determination to overcome the prejudice and her own limitations if she is to continue her relationship with Martin, and to succeed in the progress of the choir.

Archambault has succeeded in making a film with her subjects and not simply about them – imperfections and all, while the musical element serves her purpose perfectly.

Part of the fabric is a famous Quebec singer Robert Charlebois who comes to visit the class in rehearsal – and finds himself the centre of attention.

Gabrielle is a crowd-pleaser with integrity and had the capacity crowd at Locarno's Piazza Grande leaping to their feet for a sustained ovation.

Reviewed on: 14 Aug 2013
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Young love comes up against prejudice.

Director: Louise Archambault

Writer: Louise Archambault

Starring: Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Alexandre Landry

Year: 2013

Runtime: 114 minutes

Country: Canada

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