If ever a film lived up to its name it is Delicacy. The French romantic comedy by directors David and Stéphane Foenkinos, and starring Audrey Tatou and François Damiens, is a delicate and enchanting film which, though it never rushes in telling its story, neither feels ponderous or overextended.
Nathalie (Tatou) is madly in love with her new husband François (Pio Marmaï), and he (for once in the modern world) is madly in love with her. Unfortunately as luck always seems to have it good relationships are doomed before they even get off the ground, and shortly after their marriage François is killed in a freak road accident whilst out jogging one day. Bereft and alone in Paris (and there’s nowhere worse to be alone than in the ‘City of Love’), Nathalie throws herself into her work for a large corporate organisation (the identity and purpose of which is never quite fully explained).
Three years pass and Nathalie has progressed at work, though not in her personal life as she still privately mourns the loss of her husband and seems emotionally unable to move on. Spurning the attentions of any man who shows interest in her it’s not until Markus (Damiens), a socially awkward though affable and well meaning co-worker, asks her out that she again finds love in the most unlikely of relationships.
Delicacy is a reinterpretation of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for the 21st century. As in the age old legend Nathalie, like Beauty, is a loner, unable to find love and peace whilst all those around her enjoy life to the full. It takes her to meet Markus and look beneath a somewhat unappealing outward appearance, to discover his inner attractiveness in the form of a gentle, considerate and understanding man, and in the process come out of herself. Nathalie’s blossoming love for Markus helps him as well, in a world of beautiful people which has always seemed against him because he has never quite lived up to the idea of social acceptability.
Delicacy‘s setting of Paris and rural France lends itself wonderfully to the laid back and bohemian’esque storyline based on its director David Foenkinos’ bestselling novel of the same name. Tatou is perfectly cast as an otherworldly individual (a role which the French actress has made her own since appearing in the bizarre yet entrancing Amelie (2001)), who after the tragedy which besets her life becomes increasingly removed and disjointed from her family and friends. Damiens also captures the innocence and frustration of the misunderstood Markus with a sharp and heartfelt performance, making the viewer’s sympathy inevitably lie with him, whilst the people who mock and snigger behind his back appear as the misfits.
Finishing as the couple visit Nathalie’s grandmother Madeleine (a sage-like performance from the eighty five year old actress Monique Chaumette) at her house in the country, it is the old lady’s completely unfettered acceptance of Markus and happiness that her beloved grand-daughter Nathalie has found love again, which finally sets the seal on the couple’s relationship, as well as showing that that inner beauty is what matters – which could indeed be the subtitle for Delicacy as a whole.