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Categories: Movie Reviews

Charmingly light-hearted and beautifully well-made, this modern French classic is well worthy of its acclaim.

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Paris: a city of light, a city for lovers and the perfect setting for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s wonderfully charming Amélie. With plenty of character and heart, this classic French hit is the dictionary definition of ‘feel good’. Amélie is no ordinary woman. Played by the beautifully fresh-faced Audrey Tautou, she’s a young woman who discretely orchestrates the lives of the people around her, sorting out their sad little problems. But when she discovers a strange photo album belonging to Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), she soon realises that she is in love and has problems of her own.

[Some plot details ahead] Amélie was raised apart from other children; her father, a man obsessed with garden gnomes, misdiagnosed her with a weak heart, while a suicidal person leaping off a building landed on Amélie’s luckless mother, killing her flat. Amélie observes life at a distance, that is, until the death of Princes Diana leads her to discover a hidden old rusty box, in which a young boy once hoarded his treasures. In tracking down the boy – now a grown man – she returns the box to an overjoyed owner and Amélie, watching in secret, finds her life’s work: she will make people happy. Amusing herself (and us), she devises the most brilliant ways for bringing about their happiness.

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She plays matchmaker with the lonely tobacconist Georgette (Isabelle Nanty) at the local Parisian cafe, and Joseph (Dominique Pinon), a customer who has been jilted. She comes up with witty ways to get her reclusive father (Rufus) to begin his once-upon-a-time dream of travelling the world. She even stands up for Lucien (Jamel Debbouze), an Arab clerk working at the grocers who’s constantly being shamed publicly by his controlling boss (Urbain Cacellier).

Amélie explores the simplicity of life, and sees the beauty in almost everything. From the very start of the movie, with her brief, particular and wonderfully distinctive likes and dislikes, you begin to grow attached to her character and progression in the film. The real delight comes later, from the army of oddballs that rotate the relationship Amélie shares with each of the unusual characters she meets. With each character comes a different story, and although I hate to admit it, I consider myself a helpless romantic, so naturally my favourite was the love story between Amelie and Nino, which my heart swell. While their love story may not be the most conventional, the childlike pranks you see throughout the film make for a playfully romantic adventure.

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The film, filled with a great cast who embody charm instead of impersonating it, coupled with Jeunet’s direction, makes exquisite use of Paris as an inviting playground for Amélie’s missions of kindness. One of the many reasons I love this movie is that the Montmartre Amélie lives in is an unreal, dream version of Paris. What with the accordion music, corner cafes and sepia tones that soak through panoramic shots of the city, this supposedly modern-day Paris Jeunet tries to create for us, could most certainly be the Paris of 30 years before. It is a place of violently contrasting colours, unlikely subplots and colourful eccentrics. Amélie does not try to define what Paris is really like – it is set in a world of its own, which makes a change from the other movies that try to capture the city’s gritty realities.

There is so much to love about this film, and a reason why it’s been nominated and won so many prestigious awards in the past. The cinematography is beautiful, the music is innovative, the plot with its host of lovable-yet-quirky characters is engaging, and this almost absurd atmosphere Jeunet creates for us is so engrossing, you want to watch on.

From the visually stunning opening to the enchanting closing scenes, Amélie is something special — you leave with part of the love, happiness and light-heartedness infused in it. A definite one to watch!

Bianca Patel

A recent graduate from Nottingham Trent University, with a passion for all things creative, particularly film! I enjoy checking out new trailers, new releases or spending my free time watching old films, crushing on the actors – then, in most cases tweeting about it later.

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Posted on May 2, 2016

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