Delicacy

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There must be others, but I can think of only two films that deal with the subject of re-learning to love again after the loss of a soul mate, Sleepless in Seattle and now Delicacy.

A 2011 French romantic comedy-drama directed by David and Stéphane Foenkinos, Delicacy tells the story of Nathalie, a young woman played by Audrey Tautou who is living a happy, fulfilled life with her husband Francois until one day Francois goes out for a jog and is hit by a car. Devastated, Nathalie withdraws, burying herself in her work, convinced relationships for her are a thing of the past. Nevertheless, several years later, love returns, looking quite different the second time around.  Markus is a decided contrast from Francois.  Whereas Francois was bold and handsome, Markus is reserved, awkward, and not terribly attractive.

One thing I love about French movies is their fearlessness when it comes to symbolism and metaphor. Ironically, in the last one I commented on, Mood Indigo, I complained about it being a bit too over the top and suggested it would have been improved had they shown a little restraint. Well, I got what I asked for with Delicacy. Delicacy provides mostly straight up realism with a couple of curve balls that, while charming, are also a little bit confusing.

Nathalie and Markus’ relationship begins when, without warning and completely out of the blue,  she walks over and kisses him passionately, only to deny having any recall of the event the next day.  Markus is understandably confused by this. Nathalie tells him simply to forget it, but of course he can’t. For a few moments after this scene, I felt much as I do when I ask the kids if they’ve done something like “brush their teeth,” and they tell me they can’t remember. How can you not remember whether you brushed your teeth or kissed someone passionately?  It’s an awkward plot device, but I understood it to symbolize the sudden and unexpected return of love to her life just as it had suddenly and unexpectedly left.  Then again, the movie is based on a novel, so maybe it’s just one of those things that doesn’t translate well to film.  In any event, the rest of the film, in no small part owing to another great performance from Audrey Tautou, does a wonderful job portraying the push and pull of her new found attraction weighed against an inability to move on from the past.  François Damiens is excellent too as Markus.  She is emotionally delicate, but so is he, and Damiens manages to balance perfectly the tension between being afraid to risk everything emotionally for a woman who is uncertain and clearly out of his league (he knows this mostly because everyone tells him) and being charming and self-possessed enough to make her attraction believable in the first place.  

Delicacy currently has a 6.6 on IMDB and a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes (58% audience).  Even adjusting for the inflation I’m bound to give any Audrey Tautou movie, that’s too low.  It won’t leave you quite as warm and fuzzy feeling as Amelie will, but then again, nothing short of a box of puppies is going to do that. This one’s a diamond in the dust heap.

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