out of Five
Running time: 108
Emotionally engaging French comedy-drama that ambitiously blends several different tones and somehow pulls it off, thanks to confident direction, a sharp script and superb performances from Audrey Tautou and Francois Damiens.
What's it all about?
Co-directed by brothers David and Stephane Foenkinos, Delicacy is based on David's best-selling novel and stars Audrey Tautou as Nathalie, a young woman whose perfect life comes crashing down around her when her loving, drop-dead gorgeous husband Francois (Pio Marmai) is killed in a shock accident. Nathalie deals with her grief by throwing herself into work at her new job and three years later, she finds herself being propositioned by her lusty boss Charles (Bruno Todeschini) after he promotes her.
However, Nathalie rejects Charles' advances and impulsively kisses dorky, unattractive Swedish co-worker Markus (Francois Damiens, from Heartbreakers), who, in turn, can't believe his luck. After that, the pair embark on a tentative relationship, despite opposition from both co-workers and Nathalie's friends.
Audrey Tautou is excellent as Nathalie, generating a charming chemistry with Damiens that enables us to see what she sees in him, even if nobody else sees it – the scene where Nathalie's best friend finally meets Markus (having envisioned “Swedish co-worker” in her head as something quite different) and is unable to hide her disgust is just one of several sharply observed scenes. There's also strong support from Damiens (excellent) and Todeschini, while a sadly underused Audrey Fleurot (from TV's Spiral) gives it the full Joan Holloway as Charles' nosey secretary, Ingrid.
The script is excellent, cleverly blending several different tones (including romance, tragedy, fantasy, comedy and emotional drama) and has the characters behave in unexpected ways so that you're never quite sure what's going to happen next. There's also a lot of extremely dry humour in the film, particularly in Nathalie and Markus' conversations about Krisprolls.
The Foenkinos brothers maintain tight control of their material throughout, which is no mean feat considering the various different tones. They also make excellent use of music – in particular a lovely piece signifying Nathalie's happiness that only occurs twice in the film, but is highly effective; there's also a great final scene.
It's fair to say that a film about a gorgeous French woman falling for her unattractive co-worker is almost like the male equivalent of wish fulfilment chick-lit, so it's likely to find favour with that audience at least. At any rate, Delicacy is a hugely enjoyable, emotionally engaging comedy-drama with a sharp script and terrific performances from its two leads. Recommended.