More than a decade since ‘Amélie’, Audrey Tautou remains a captivating yet elusive screen presence. That piercing gaze and pouty upper lip give her the air of a woman not easily impressed, suggesting a self-contained strength at odds with the melting romcom roles she plays. Perhaps that’s why ‘Coco Before Chanel’ remains her best work. But in this instance novelist-turned-director David Foenkinos, working with his brother Stéphane, makes an intriguing stab at fitting her persona into his story of a grief-stricken widow pondering the possibility of loving once more.

After an opening chapter sketches the delirious union of Tautou’s Nathalie and her ill-fated hubby (Pio Marmaï), we get to the nub of the drama. She responds to his tragic loss by burying herself in work, remaining determinedly aloof in the process. Until, that is, one fateful day when pent-up feelings manifest themselves in kissing schlumpy Swedish co-worker Markus (François Damiens). He’s smitten, of course, but can she really fall for this balding, ungainly, nonentity of a man?

Needless to say, male sympathies will be on the side of the unprepossessing but sweet-natured Scandinavian. Yet the movie fails the test of any romcom by never convincing us he has what it takes to make her happiness complete, especially since she’s no soft touch. Tautou herself is more convincing at tensile reserve than in subsequent story developments, which generate only moderate chemistry.

Somehow though, the film remains more charming than it has any right to be – possibly because its tendency to switch back and forth from whimsical cuteness to troublingly genuine emotions keeps us alert throughout. It never hits the target, but its sincerity is surely preferable to the machine-tooled slickness of Hollywood models.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday April 13 2012
Duration: 109 mins

Cast and crew

Director: David Foenkinos, Stéphane Foenkinos
Screenwriter: Stéphane Foenkinos, David Foenkinos
Cast: Audrey Tautou
François Damiens
Bruno Todeschini

Average User Rating

2.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
1 person listening

With a three star rating, I went to this film not expecting very much, but walked away very pleased I’d seen it. I think too much is made of the physical difference between Tautou and the tall Swede - people fancy other people for all sorts of reasons, and it’s been proven time and time again that women rarely settle with the very best looking guys, but go for less aesthetic qualities. I found the story very believable. Some of the initial awkwardness in the relationship, the toe-curlingly embarrassing moments, and the complexity of the boss fancying Tautou’s character all reminded me of some of Woody Allen’s work. Highly enjoyable. Liked the soundtrack very much. I’ll try to see it again. Three stars.

Patricia David

This film isn't anything spectacular, but the main actors are good enough to keep your attention up all through the film, and from the beginning you really feel for Audrey Tautou's character, so fragile and yet determined to keep going. There are a few funny moments - mostly the facial expressions and some of the quotes from the Swedish love-interest, a lot of tender moments too, perfectly highlighted by the the beautiful music. This was written by French musician Emilie Simon, who strangely looks a little bit like Audrey Tautou herself. You need to know that Emilie Simon went through the same thing as Audrey Tautou's character in the film - she lost her fiance. To me, the music really made the film. I would recommend seeing this "delicate" film, if you don't need to be wowed, but rather if you would like to smile, perhaps cry a little, and mostly wonder at the actor's talent.