“One person can change your life forever.”
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus
Synopsis: Amelie, an innocent and naive girl in Paris, with her own sense of justice, decides to help those around her and along the way, discovers love.
Movies don’t come much quirkier than Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie — or Le fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain, to give the film its full title. Audrey Tautou plays its gamin heroine, a slight, introverted young woman living in Montmartre. Although the movie takes place in a city in 1997, it feels more like a rustic tale set in, perhaps, the 1950s.
At the film’s opening, an unseen narrator informs us that Amelie is the result of a loveless childhood, longing for a hug from her remote father which never comes, and prevented from interacting with other children because her father mistakenly believes she is suffering from a heart condition (her heart beats fast whenever he examines it simply because of his proximity to her). Her mother’s death only makes things worse, and Amelie leaves home for Montmartre at the earliest opportunity. She works in a cafe in which an eccentric group of workers and patrons go about their lives in a kind of cocoon, safely protected from the realities of the outside world (even though reference is made to external events, such as the death of Princess Di)
One day, Amelie discovers a tin of childhood toys hidden behind a loose wall tile in her bathroom and decides to locate its owner, who will now be in his fifties. Her natural shyness prevents her from approaching the man directly, so she leaves the tin in a phone booth which she calls as the man is passing. The man is so touched by the discovery that he decides to make contact with his estranged daughter and the grandchild he has never met. Amelie is so buoyed by his happiness at recovering remnants of his lost childhood that she makes it her mission to help those around her.
The whimsical, feel-good tone of the movie Amelie gives it a modern fairy-tale quality that is enhanced by its saturated colour scheme and cosy environment. Tautou makes an appealing heroine, and while the film spreads itself a little thin, one of its most interesting features is the way in which not all of her escapades prove completely successful. Unfortunately, the lack of focus and the presence of a few too many characters means that the story doesn’t always hold together as well as it should. Nevertheless, the likeability factor of the story, and of its lead character, encourages a certain level of indulgence on the part of the audience.