Film review: Delicacy

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Steve Barrett is completing a combined Science/Arts degree at The University of Western Australia and is part of Trove's theatre and film reviewing team for 2012.

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Still from the film Delicacy

Reviewed by Steve Barrett

Edited by Rachael Hains-Wesson

Film: Delicacy
Director: David Foenkinos
Running time: 108 minutes
Year of release: 2011
Language: French

As the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival rolls into town once again, It is worth noting how popular French cinema has become in Australia. This year, the festival will present forty-five films, with attendance expected to surpass last year’s 130,000 filmgoers. This is a remarkable achievement for foreign-language cinema, and a testament to the quality of the films being produced and shown to non-Francophone audiences around the world.

Delicacy, which is written and directed by David Foenkinos, seems to be very much in the mould of the typical French cinematic fare we’ve become so accustomed to. I expected another charming romantic comedy starring Audrey Tautou, a quirky storyline, and some overly cheesy ending. But actually, Delicacy surprises and delights in an unexpected but uniquely French way. The film has a real freshness in the way romance and love are dissected and explored, far from the often crass and clichéd rom-coms of Hollywood.

[Warning, you're about to read a plot spoiler] The film follows Nathalie (Tautou), who has a successful career, a wonderful life, and is madly in love with her husband Charles (Bruno Todeschini). When Charles is unexpectally killed, Nathalie blocks out her sorrow by walling herself up in her work. After several years of living with the pain, she suddenly kisses Markus (François Damiens), an unsuspecting Swedish co-worker. The awkward workplace romance that blossoms from this surprise encounter is at once hilarious and touching. The depressive Swede Markus, and the highly-strung Nathalie gradually grow towards one another, to the surprise of all around them, and as the film draws to a close, the audience is left with a strangely beautiful and tender finale.

The performances in this film are superb all round. Tautou is cast perfectly as the widowed Nathalie, with her emotional range and subtlety well highlighted in the film, but it is truly Damiens who steals the show. The awkwardly dressed, shy Swede is wonderfully acted by Damiens, bringing real humour and warmth to a genuinely complex character.

The soundtrack, whilst restrained, complements the mood wonderfully, and the cinematography is likewise well suited. Although set in Paris, the film never gets lost in the vistas of the beautiful city, rather focusing on the less glamorous, but more compelling aspects of the characters’ day to day life. With much of the action unfolding in drab offices and small apartments, this brings an odd realism and depth to what could have easily been a simple but superficial romantic-comedy.

This is a film that uplifts and warms and I highly recommend it, and especially for those who are interested in French cinema. It is quirky and surprising, laugh-out-loud funny at points, and touchingly tender during others. With a release like this, the Alliance Française Film Festival clearly has a lot to offer Australian audiences.