La Belle Époque (5 stars)

La Belle Epoque

Hugely charming French romcom from Nicolas Bedos, starring Daniel Auteuil and Fanny Ardant

Written and directed by Nicolas Bedos, this utterly delightful French romantic comedy (or Fromcom, if you will) plays like a Gallic version of Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York. Romantic, nostalgic and beautifully acted, it's one of the best films of the year.

Daniel Auteuil plays sixtysomething cartoonist Victor Drumond, who's kicked out by his wife Marianne (Fanny Ardant) because she finds him insufferably boring. As luck would have it, Victor's friend Antoine (Guillaume Canet) runs a high-end re-enactment service, whereby a client can be transported to any era they desire and live out their fantasy life.

When offered the opportunity, Victor doesn't hesitate – he wants to go back to a smoke-filled bistro in 1974, to the moment he first met Marianne. However, there are complications, as Victor finds himself falling for Margot (Bedos's real-life partner Doria Tillier, who co-wrote and starred in his first feature Mr & Mrs Adelman), the actress playing young Marianne, who also happens to be Antoine's on-again-off-again girlfriend.

Bedos's immaculately constructed, achingly romantic screenplay is a constant joy, exploring both the seductive pull of nostalgia as well as the dangers of living in the past. There's additional appeal, because it's easy to see the correlation with cinema itself, especially with the oh-so-perfect casting of such iconic French actors.

Auteuil is simply wonderful as Victor, generating strong chemistry with both Ardant and Tillier, while Canet is excellent as the behind-the-scenes puppet master, whose manipulations of his ex begin to backfire. Tillier, in turn, delivers a pair of luminous performances, thoroughly convincing both as Margot and young Marianne.

Bedos packs his script with sparkling wit, while ensuring that the film is suffused with strong emotion throughout. He has an assured sense of pace, escalating the farcical elements and paying them off brilliantly, culminating in what can only be described as the perfect ending. It is, as they say, très, très, très charmant.

Limited release from Fri 22 Nov.

La belle époque

  • 5 stars
  • 2019
  • France
  • 1h 55min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Nicolas Bedos
  • Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Guillaume Canet, Doria Tillier

Victor (Auteuil) is a sixtysomething cartoonist who’s kicked out by his wife Marianne (Ardant) for being boring, but he then takes his friend Antoine (Canet)’s offer to re-enact an earlier era of his life and live out a fantasy. Immaculately constructed, achingly romantic, with great performances, sparkling wit and a…