Friday, 30 March 2012

Delicacy, dir. David and Stéphane Foenkinos, scr. David Foenkinos, st. Audrey Tautou, François Damiens, Pio Marmaï

From the first strains of Émilie Simon’s music-box score and heightened-reality depictions of Nathalie and her husband François loved-up bliss, you’d be forgiven for thinking Delicacy is dining out on Amelie-esque whimsy, but there is something far more subtle and dare I say it – affecting – to be found in the Foekinos brothers’ tale of a grief accepted, and a new love discovered in its wake. We first see Tautou as Nathalie in a café, where she and her boyfriend François share an annual role-play, re-enacting the moment they first met. It’s one of a handful of scenes that should be nauseating (François later proposing with his house keys in lieu of a proper engagement ring is another) but actually helps cement in our minds the cutesy reality of a couple in love, comfortable and familiar with each other. After François is killed (off-screen in a traffic accident), Nathalie gets a dull office job and begins a relationship, of sorts, with Swedish employee Markus, and so begins her grieving process and the fragile possibility of a new love. ‘Gamine’, ‘waifish’ and ‘elfin’ seem to be easy shortcuts to describe the radiant Taoutou, and it’s true, the eyes most definitely have it, but she’s also an actor of extraordinary focus and control; whether marching down an office corridor, all icy stoicism and heartache, or letting go Nina Sayers-style in a club, she’s an actor whose physicality utterly sells a scene. Markus, at first glance, seems the most unlikely object of attraction; a beige, balding, gangly pen-pusher, camouflaging an honest, untested heart. After Nathalie impulsively kisses him, he’s caught, at first, and then after a couple of tentative dates, refuses to even look at her, lest she withdraw her affections. “You’ll get neck-ache”, she says, as he averts his gaze. “Better than heart-ache”, he replies. The line is typical of the tone of the film; the humour is gentle, persuasive, the burgeoning relationship navigated with care and delicacy rather than the linear path of most celluloid romances. But the real heart of the film is held back for the very last scene, the clunky quirk and fancy coming together in a bravado combination of gossamer steadicam, meticulous choreography and an impassively poignant voice-over. Never has mourning been depicted with such beauty and hope.