It’s quirky, it’s French, it’s Audrey Tautou – what could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a few things, as it turns out…
Delicacy follows the story of Nathalie (Tautou) who is so loved up it’s almost unbearable. Her cutesy romance with Francois (Pio Marmai) involves kissing outside cafés, twirling in the snow, and planning to start a family. Her dreams are shattered, however, when Francois is tragically killed in a car crash. Distraught Nathalie throws herself into office work – having given up what looked like a much more enjoyable job selling programmes at a theatre. All plods along fairly unremarkably until Nathalie impulsively decides to throw herself at her Swedish colleague Markus (François Damiens), who himself appears somewhat unremarkable. From here, a timid but predictable romance develops, as Nathalie gradually gets her love-life back on track, and a bemused Markus generally can’t quite believe his luck in having somehow impressed such a beautiful co-worker.
The real problem with Delicacy is not the fact that it’s undeniably formulaic and saccharine throughout, but that is struggles to balance its comic and tragic elements. Sitting squarely in the shadow of quirky classic Amélie, the film desperately wants to be a mildly eccentric rom-com, while at the same time giving a sensitive portrayal of the rather inconvenient death which occurs about twenty minutes in – although, admittedly, it manages to evade any obvious One Day comparisons. By refusing to take a blasé or black-humoured approach to the subject matter, the pace is inevitably slowed by all the sadness and never quite picks up again.
That said, teeny-tiny typecast Tautou shows she’s still got her comedic touch in some brilliantly scripted moments of office-based comedy with larger-than-life Belgian comedian Damiens – which are genuinely funny, if not a little over-familiar these days. Yet it’s a shame there is little resolution to the shallow reactions of Nathalie’s friends and colleagues, who appear to disapprove of her unconventional choice of man.
For all its flaws, Delicacy does present an intriguing insight into how and why unlikely romances can occasionally blossom. For heartbroken Nathalie, the choice between her suave successful, good-looking boss, who wines and dines her under the guise of celebrating her promotion, and the awkward and clumsy Markus, is not a difficult one. The less-than-obvious attraction of her unlikely suitor is subtly demonstrated in a parallel dinner date, in which Markus takes her to a tacky Chinese restaurant, where she laughs at the bad food and his terrible jokes. He is not charming, but he is kind and genuine – the safe option – bringing a touch of realism to this wildly whimsical tale.
The film does itself no favours by being inexplicably bizarre at times – directing duo, Stéphane and David Foenkinos, are perhaps a little overly ambitious with some dream sequences that tend to miss the ‘kooky’ mark by miles. Nathalie’s boss is also guarded by a needlessly sexy Mad Men-style secretary, whose pouting and wiggling may well amount to a joke that is simply lost in translation. Worst of all, the film leaves you with the slight sense of dread that Markus might be the one to have his heart broken next time around. It’s hard to say why, but the ‘feel-good factor,’ which should be slathered on with a film like this, somehow seems to be spread a little thin – a little too delicately, perhaps.