If you’d force me to sum up my reaction to the movie with just one sentence, it’d probably be: Je ne sais au juste. There are certain things about “Valley of Love” that I liked, and that I can admire on an artistic level – but overall, it didn’t really work for me.
—————— SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD ——————
In the interest of full disclosure, I’d like to point out that I missed most of the dialogue of the first couple of minutes due to a hiccup with the projector, which meant that you couldn’t see most of the subtitles. Which probably didn’t help me finding my way into the movie, since – assuming that they explained the setup during the first conversation between Isabelle and Gérard in the café – I kinda had to piece together what was going on after the subtitles finally worked. Then again, I actually liked the setup and the first third of the movie best anyway, so I don’t really think that it was that much of an issue. What admittedly took a little getting used to is the idea of Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu playing themselves, but in a fictitious story. Once I got accustomed to that, however, I started to enjoy myself. Both show some very strong performances, and I especially liked how great they are together onscreen. I also quite enjoyed the couple of lighter, funnier moments at the beginning (like Depardieu signing an autograph as De Niro), even though those didn’t quite jibe with the rather tragic, somber setup of the movie. And some of the shots of Death Valley were quite impressive. Unfortunately, the longer the movie went, the more it got rather metaphysical, if not downright supernatural – a development that I didn’t enjoy at all. I would have vastly prefered a story about how both of them deal with their grief, instead of all that spiritual mumbo jumbo. By far its biggest problem, however, is how they make such a big deal about their son making a brief return appearance on September 12, with Gérard being dead-set on leaving on the 11th, and then at the last minute deciding to stay after all – only to then end the movie on the eve of the 12th, thus we never actually get to see what’s happening then. After making such a big deal out of it (not that him staying after all would have been much of a surprise), that was just incredibly unsatisfactory – like 90 minutes of foreplay without ever getting down to business. In that regard, “Valley of Love” is all tease and no action, to such a frustrating extent that I actually felt cheated. However, if you can look past that, maybe you’ll enjoy it more than I did.