Last night we watched Delicacy, or La delicatesse, a 2011 French film with Audrey Tatou as Nathalie, the leading lady.
Unlike most French films, Delicacy speeds through events – and hops forward years – with no hesitation. Slowness, consideration and observation are common traits of French films, and I love this about them, but it’s refreshing to watch a fast-paced, and yet just as romantic and beautiful, film set in Paris.
Nathalie is a career-focused young woman in a relationship with Francoise: a handsome, funny, energetic young man. He proposes, they marry, their parents come round for dinner in their colourful, open-plan apartment and they can’t get rid of them – prompting Nathalie to suggest that it might have been easier if she’d had a traditionally difficult mother-in-law who she despised, and if they didn’t get on so well with their parents. There’s light-hearted pressure from parents to provide grandchildren but the young couple are in no rush. So everything’s perfect.
And then Francoise is killed by a passing car whilst jogging.
His widow’s life falls apart. But she quickly returns to work to distract herself and works her way up in the company, ignoring the advances of the sleazy boss who’s fallen in love with her.
Tatou delivers grief in such a convincing manner that I felt heartbroken for Nathalie. When done well, a film-death will cause you to feel as if you’ve just lost your own love – and this is how I felt watching Delicacy.
Rich turned to me at one point and said: “Do you think Audrey Tatou is pretty?” I said that yes, I thought she was very pretty. He started laughing and I asked why he was laughing. He said: “because of course she’s pretty; it’s obvious that she’s pretty.” That’s all I’ll say of her appearance – her undeniable, mesmeric beauty – because it was her acting that won my approval.
Though, actually, her beauty plays a key role in the relationship she develops a few years down the line with a Swede working in her team (she’s his boss). She slowly decides that she might be ready to try falling in love again but is surprised by the disapproval of those around her when the two embark on an affair.
I love the French setting, the coffee, the romance, the Parisian architecture, the beautiful apartment, the chic French manner and the house and garden in the final scene.
This film is touching and gentle – despite the speed and magnanimity of featured events: Marriage. Death. Work. New love – and well worth a watch. The Guardian describes it as a rom com and I suppose that’s what it is: it’s romantic, it’s funny – but that makes it sound low brow. And it’s not low brow.