The Book of Gabrielle (2016)
Written and Directed by Lisa Gornick
In The Book of Gabrielle we follow Gabrielle (Lisa Gornick) as she embarks on completing her illustrated guide to sex, part memoir, part instruction manual, where she befriends Saul (Allan Corduner), an established author known for his erotic literature. As Gabrielle delves into her book and herself her relationship with her partner Olivia (Anna Koval) and Saul is questioned and tested as he figures out what makes her tick.
This film is a warm and intimate portrayal of Gabrielle’s sexual life, both with herself and others. It is charted beautifully through long takes of Gabrielle live drawing her manual, that both give a tone for the story and visual feast for the eyes. Lisa Gornick excels at giving us a relatable down to earth character of someone who enjoys a sexual life, but is also very aware and sometimes challenged by it. This is accentuated by the long lingering shots on Gabrielle during which allow us to really sit inside her journey whilst spending time with others. Allan Cauldner also gives a charming and softly seductive Saul who you can feel falling for, whilst Anna Koval’s Olivia gives us a sweet partner who you don’t want to see hurt. This effective trio of characters pulls the audience back and forth whilst Gabrielle figures her book out.
Whilst this movie keeps you engaged thanks to the pleasingly presented at times I felt the stakes were not high enough. Whilst in the story Gabrielle’s relationships are at risk, Olivia as Gabrielle’s long-term partner from the start never feels like someone that is a massive part of her life and so I didn’t worry about losing her. And on the flip side Saul didn’t feel as forbidden a fruit as he could have been. Whilst the exploration of self is very filling Gabrielle’s other relationships couldn’t have been better fleshed out to give us more to care for.
I applaud this film for a very normative portrayal of both sexual life and lesbian relationships. I feel there is a tendency in most films for lesbian romances or erotic topics to either be coming-of-age stories, or hyper-erotic. This was done through natural characters and dialogue rather than soft-core porn which made it feel a lot more identifiable.
The Book of Gabrielle Is a tender, personal examination of one woman’s sex life as she grows older, looking at how her relationships and herself affect it. It feels like having a chat with a friend and looking through the keyhole of another person’s life, giving the comforting idea that difficulty in what is always advertised as perfect and romantic isn’t wrong.
© Dan Ramsden – 2018 – @DanielRamsdenFL