The drama in it feels true, the comedy feels effortless, and the relationships it explores are genuinely interesting. It’s a great matinee movie for anyone who’s ever been in love.
Natalie (Tautou) is completely devastated when her perfect husband, François, is killed in a car accident. Unable to face even her family, she throws herself into her work for years, much to the benefit of her professional standing, but at the cost of any meaningful personal life. Her isolation gets the best of her when she—in a lonely daze—finds herself kissing a homely Swedish co-worker, Markus (François Damiens, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies). The two of them become closer as they start seeing each other outside of work, but must contend with her feelings of betraying her late husband, and her friends and colleagues disbelief that a woman as elegant as Natalie could find anything in an oaf like Markus.
Though the plot doesn’t have any urgency or forward momentum to push the audience ahead of it, Delicacy does a fabulous job of creating characters that we’re pleased to follow as they drift from scene to scene. The performances are wonderful, especially Tautou and Damiens, who made me root for them on their rocky road to a relationship despite how much I felt early on that no one could replace her husband. Even though I’ve lately found myself with a personal vendetta against movies that don’t even attempt to have a conventional plot structure, the characters crafted by writer David Foenkinos, adapating his own novel, feel so personal that I quickly got over it and just went for the ride. The dual explorations of grief after losing a spouse and the hurtful reactions of trusted friends to a relationship between two disparately attractive people are riveting, and more than a little heartbreaking.
My only complaint lies with a few distracting fantasy sequences staged by the film’s two directors. You’ll immediately recognize this kind of whimsical aside as popularized by David E. Kelley in Ally McBeal and perfected by Tautou’s career-maker, Jean Pierre Jeunet in Amélie. Instead of seeing a couple on their wedding day in a church, they’ll stand perfectly still while snow starts to fall around them in a park, a dissolve will get them into their wedding clothes, and they’ll turn around to the sound of applause before we jump cut to the next scene. Not so great. Or a man’s sudden increase in confidence will find him walking up a hill getting eyed up and kissed on the cheek by a string of beautiful women walking the other direction. A little heavy handed. Instead of adding a touch of fanciful flair to the picture, these asides take us out of the story and remind us that we’re sitting in a movie theater. Fortunately, they don’t last very long and they’re accompanied by a few subtle visual sequences that are absolute perfection, like Tautou dancing her heart out alone in the middle of a club surrounded by couples while her best friend looks on, silently mourning for her.
My personal opinion: If you don’t make it to the theater for this one, it’s definitely worth picking reserving when it shows up at your public library.