Posy Simmonds has made two of the best (and least known) graphic novels, which have inspired two fine and underrated films. Just as Thurber and Adams transformed The New Yorkerwith their archly seditious cartoons, so Simmonds has done for The Guardian (UK) with her satirical modern inversions of Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" as "Gemma Bovery" (2000) and Harry James' "Far From The Madding Crowd" as "Tamara Drewe" (2007). Her unique melding of quietly acerbic prose with hawk-eyed cartooning rethinks the classics and rewrites what the graphix medium can do.
The book conflates the parallels of the literary Emma with the adrift expat Gemma, and their attempts to escape constriction and fate. With divine casting, the film amplifies this metatextual feedback loop with Gemma Bovery being played by Gemma Arterton, the star of Tamara Drewe (2010)! As always, she shines best in indie character films outside of the blockbuster grind.
Director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) delivers one of the most faithful film translations possible; just as the English expats struggle to understand their place in the French provinces, the English actors weave within a clearly French production. Balancing dreamy evocation with sharp observation, the silly and the subtle, Fontaine superbly construes Simmonds' vision.