Directed by: David Foenkinos, Stéphane Foenkinos
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Francois Damiens, Bruno Todeschini, Melanie Bernier, Josephine de Meaux, Pio Marmai
Rated: PG-13 for some strong language
There are certain sweets that suffer if you gobble them down, they’re best enjoyed slowly. If you don’t let their subtle, quiet flavors have time to mix and expand, they barely taste sweet at all. If you do, though, they’re a delight. “Delicacy” is the film version of that sort of sweet — it’s simple, quiet, and at times even a bit strange, but if you give it time to work its magic, its charm is inescapable.
Bird-like Nathalie (Audrey Tautou) and handsome, romantic Francois (Pio Marmai) are young and in love, freshly married, talking about children — and then there’s an accident, and he’s gone. Nathalie throws herself into her work, much to the dismay of her loving friends, family, and coworkers. After years of solitude (and of eluding the machinations of her lecherous manager), she finds herself drawn out by a man who is practically Francois’ opposite: Markus (Francois Damiens), a lanky, lumpy, balding Swede who is her subordinate at work. She’s unsure of whether to try to move on with Markus, or stay with what she knows: isolation.
Markus sees himself falling for his unavailable, remote boss almost immediately, and does his best to fight it, even going so far as to turn and sprint away when the Eiffel Tower lights up behind Nathalie just so after an evening out and it’s all too romantic for him to cope with. He doesn’t want to have his heart broken, but can’t stop himself from falling.
“Delicacy” takes its time, showing us just how happy Nathalie was with Francois before she was widowed, and building not only her character but the characters around her in small, simple ways until we know them. Tautou is older now than she was when “Amelie” put her on the American film radar, and if anything it makes her face even more expressive. She can show us exactly what she’s thinking with just a glance.
Damiens is fantastic as Markus, a man who is about as ordinary as they come on the outside. Her friends and coworkers don’t understand what she sees in him, and at first, neither do we — or Nathalie herself, for that matter. It’s not until we, and Nathalie, get to know him better that his subtle spark of awesomeness peeks into view.
“Delicacy” is not a film of sweeping melodrama, political thrills, or witty banter. It is, pure and simple, the story of a beautiful woman who finds her way back from crushing grief. It’s charming, and seems out of place at the box office, like a lone subtle sweet in a box of See’s Candy. If you’re looking for big bangs, literal or emotional, this is not the film for you, but if you want to slow down and let yourself thoroughly enjoy a quiet tale, do not miss it.