When Nathalie (Audrey Tautou) marries her childhood sweetheart Francois (Pio Marmai), life looks rosy, but an accident leaves her a young widow. Withdrawn and hurt, Nathalie flings herself into her job as a middle manager and for three years is unapproachable. Her boss Charles (Bruno Todeschini) makes advances but he is rebuffed. An impromptu kiss with Swedish colleague Markus (Francois Damiens) sets off a slow chain reaction which sees Nathalie gradually and delicately come out of her self imposed emotional exile.
Review by Louise Keller:
The unexpected nature of love's journey is the subject of this disarmingly funny yet powerful film in which we partake in the emotional twists and turns. With the luminous Audrey Tautou in the central role of Nathalie, screenwriter Foenkinos has adapted his novel 'La Delicatesse' with great finesse, capturing the nuances of relationships and the complex road to happiness.
At the beginning of the film, we meet Nathalie (Tautou), radiant in the glow of love with François (Pio Marmaï). In an enticing snapshot of their relationship, we watch them meet over apricot juice in a Paris café, get a feel for their close relationship and are there for the proposal and the fairytale wedding in the snow. They are so perfectly matched that even their respective parents never argue. François' sudden death in a road accident leaves Nathalie shattered. Although she tries to remove every reminder about him by deleting his name from her phone and throwing out all his clothes and possessions including his laptop, she seems unable to move on.
The scene at work in which Nathalie kisses Markus Lundl (François Damiens), a lumbering, balding Swede, comes as a total surprise - it's as though she is in a trance when she walks towards him in her office and kisses him thoroughly. Cupid has struck and clearly besotted by her, Markus becomes confused as Nathalie brushes off the kiss with an apology, but agrees to have dinner with him. They're an odd couple - he is like a big teddy bear, while she is a petite doll. He is awkward and insecure; she is efficient and says her mind. He likes it when she laughs because it makes him think that he's funny.
There are lovely moments throughout this charming tale that always has a soulful undercurrent. The scene in which Nathalie boss Charles (Bruno Todeschini), smitten by his beautiful employee from the beginning, calls Markus to his office to see what he could possibly have that he Charles does not, is very funny. Also funny is what happens next when Charles takes Markus out for a drink.
Tautou's presence and her natural flair for comedy keeps us engaged, even though we, like Nathalie are still grieving for the loss of the enigmatic François. All the performances are nicely gauged with special mention to Damiens, whose awkwardness contrasted by the self-assured, elegant Tautou works to such advantage. Emotionally, if described in musical terms, the film reaches an early crescendo before its descent into an abyss of darkness, which is reflected in Nathalie's clothes and demeanour. The slow swell to a final resounding crescendo of light and happiness takes its time but is worth the wait as Nathalie finds what she is looking for - in love's eternal game of hide and seek.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
France produces around 250 feature films a year, thanks to generous official support systems, and it seems the majority of them are romances of one kind or another - like Delicacy. Some of them are marvellously uplifting or fresh, as was Audrey Tautou's smashing international debut with Amelie. In this film, as in some others since Amelie, Tautou plays a less irresistible character in a story that fails to catch fire.
Adapted from his own novel, David Foenkinos's film (with co-director Stephane, his brother) starts rather flat as we meet the young lovers Nathalie & Francois (Tautou & Marmai), see him propose playfully and settle into their life. It suddenly changes tone when Francois is killed in an accident - we don't see the accident, and are hurried through the drama to be taken quickly to the funeral. This is the first sign that the adaptation to screen is problematic.
There are too many long, flat stretches where tension and drama are absent - the only focus is on Nathalie's grieving. With loss of tension comes loss of involvement and the gradual, delicate progress of Nathalie's inner life that is probably so well captured in prose, turns to an impediment for the screen. Sometimes the filmmakers resort to short voice over monologues to present thoughts, a device that was fashionable 50 + years ago and now seems a bit lazy.
Performances are all excellent, though, with Francois Damiens a standout as Markus, a balding, nonentity in the office - until now. His self deprecating manner and his nondescript appearance are deliberate: the filmmakers want us to question how the beautiful and striking Nathalie could possibly be taken with him. Sure we do, and we also question that kiss that starts it all, an odd incident the film can never quite explain, nor does it try. It may work for a reader of the book, but on screen it's too literal to be credible.
The film's main flaw, however, is that in the short time we get to know Francois, we prefer him to Markus - even though Markus is a sweet man. That's always a risk when in a romantic movie you kill off one of the lovers. But perhaps women will respond more favourably ...
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CAST: Audrey Tautou, Francois Damiens, Bruno Todeschini, Melanie Bernier, Josephine de Meaux, Pio Marmai, Monique Chaumette,
PRODUCER: Xavier Rigault, Marc-Antoine Robert
DIRECTOR: David Foenkinos, Stephane Foenkinos
SCRIPT: David Foenkinos (from his novel)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Remy Chevrin
EDITOR: Virginie Bruant
MUSIC: Emilie Simon
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Maamar Ech-Cheikh
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 3, 2012
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