Delicacy, the title of the new French film David Foenkinos adapted from his own best-seller, could easily refer to the dance that the movie does between heartbreak and humor. Audrey Tautou (Amelie) is Nathalie, a young woman who we see meet and marry her husband in a dream-like state. Embarking on a new career and intending to start a family, Nathalie’s dream soon turns to a nightmare when her husband is hit by a car and dies.
Two years later, Nathalie has devoted herself to her career (at an ambiguously-defined Paris client services corporation) and has impressed her boss, Charles (Bruno Todeschini), sufficiently for him to ask her out on a date. Nathalie tells him – and herself – that she isn’t interested in a new romance. Which is why it’s so surprising then, when she impulsively kisses another co-worker, a lovably oafish Swede named Markus (François Damiens). No one is more surprised, of course, than Nathalie
As shot through the gauzy gaze of Foenkinos and his brother, Stéphane, this duo of first-time directors Nathalie’s road to recovery in Delicacy is neither bathed in pathos nor does it adhere to the tenets of the standard romantic comedy. Perhaps because they are not familiar with the concept. “We don’t have many romantic comedies in France,” Stéphane explained. “But we put romance in every film in France. We didn’t want to escape the mourning in the story, that was part of her process.” He prefers to refer to Delicacy as a dramedy.
Regardless of label, both Foenkinos brothers acknowledge that they felt much pressure in making this film, and as helpful as it was to land a major international star like the star of Amélie. (“We dreamed of having her,” according to Stéphane, “she’s like an icon”), that, too, added to the pressure. But it paid off in finding an actress, who, as David pointed out, “was speaking the same language” as the two directors.
“Audrey was the first person that came to mind,” David laughed. “If she didn’t do it, we would have been screwed.”
“Audrey gives her a humanity and a warmth,” Stéphane said. There are some changes between the novel and the movie, notably the addition of a judgmental friend for Nathalie, but that’s okay with Stéphane. “We’re not trying to make a carbon copy of the book,” he said. “Our main concern was to try to capture the universe of the book.” David agrees, saying that the process “allowed me to rediscover the text [I] had written.”
How did Tautou tap into her character’s grief? By focusing on her perseverance. “I have no personal experience with it,” she admitted, “but I called on an inner dignity for her to deal with suffering. Nathalie is reticent, she keeps a lot in. But she was always standing up straight and dealing with it.”
The actress also applauds both Foenkinos brothers’ ability to work as a team. “It was very important for them to establish one voice,” she said. “We knew we wouldn’t be lost, and the film would be done in a sensitive way.” Stéphane acknowledges his and David’s complimentary filming style, in which he was primarily attentive to the actors and David, the crew. “But we had the same film in mind,” he said.
And clearly their efforts have paid off; Nathalie isn’t the only one to feel like she exists in a waking dream. “We’re glad [Audrey] liked it,” David said. “This is a dream for us.”
Delicacy opens is New York tomorrow.
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