Strength in fragility
Reviewer's rating: 6/10
Tempered ... Delicacy's believability falls on Audrey Tautou's shoulders.
- Romantic Comedy, Drama
- Running time
- 108 min
- David Foenkinos, Stephane Foenkinos
- Screen writer
- David Foenkinos
- Audrey Tautou, Francois Damiens, Bruno Todeschini, Melanie Bernier
- OFLC rating
The French idea of the romantic comedy appears to be travelling in the opposite direction to the American variant. Even as the latter embraces genial vulgarity and shock tactics, the former layers quiet whimsy and melancholy.
Delicacy, directed by brothers Stephane and David Foenkinos, could be loosely grouped with the recent Romantics Anonymous, and 2010's Heartbreaker, where the handsome star of various romantic comedies, Romain Duris, sent up the very genre that employs him. They're all movies with a familiar architecture and faithful tropes - in Delicacy, for example, the Parisian streets are watered down at night so light sparkles off them - that get to the expected outcome via unfamiliar steps.
Adapted by David from his 2009 novel, the story gets off to a flying start: within 15 minutes Nathalie (Tautou) and Francois (Marmai) have affirmed their love, married and found a rustic, charming apartment. If that sounds too good to be true, it is. Nathalie is soon widowed, and the movie is primarily about what follows, not so much in the short term but three years later when she finally emerges from a self-imposed emotional exile.
Everything is slightly muted in Delicacy, from the sentiment of the grieving process to the spare, conspiratorial tone struck by the glockenspiel-led score.
When Nathalie, having rejected the advances of her boss, finally ventures out, it is with another work colleague, Markus (Damiens), a Swede with a misshapen smile, patchy hair, and an oversized frame. As a couple, he notes, they're the equivalent in looks of Liechtenstein and the US, but when they're together he makes her laugh with his self-deprecating humour and that's enough to interest her and scare him.
Markus, like the duo's workmates and some of the viewing audience, doubts that Nathalie could accept him, and some of the credit for making their relationship plausible lies with Tautou. In recent years the Amelie star has learnt to temper her sparkling exuberance, so it merely glints before it openly shines, as well as adding sternness.
The film never ventures into deep water with the concept of how those who knew Francois will react to Markus, or the idea that Nathalie may be deliberately looking for someone safe who will dedicate himself to her, but it has a feel for how these two people might come to love one another that is disarmingly affecting.
Rated M, 108 minutes, opens Thursday
Stars: Audrey Tautou, Francois Damiens, Pio Marmai