Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus. Runtime: 2h 2 min. Released: April 25, 2001 (France).
Amélie Poulain is an innocent and naive woman living in Paris. She abides by her own sense of justice and starts doing random acts of kindness for the people around her.
There’s a charm to the film’s fantastical tale, from the entertaining narration to the amazing score by Yann Tiersen. There are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments even during the darkest points, like Amélie’s mom being crushed by a suicidal tourist from Quebec.
That’s how the film hooked me, with its quirky nature, visual style and imagination. The imagination and quirkiness very much applies to Amélie herself and Audrey Tautou as our titular character is the highlight. Every time she smiles at the camera, every devilish idea, Tautou is phenomenal.
Amélie and her little acts of kindness are great, especially what inspires her new outlook on life when she gives a small tin of treasures to the boy who lived in her flat 50 years ago. I also love when she sets up Georgette (Isabelle Nanty) and Joseph (Dominique Pinon).
I think my favourite act of kindness isn’t really a kindness at all, but a little bit of revenge for another person. A kind man named Lucien (Jamel Debbouze) is always getting verbally abused by his boss, grouchy grocer Mr. Collignon (Urbain Cancelier). To help with the situation, Amélie changes some things around in his apartment, like switching his toothpaste with foot cream or replacing his slippers with the same pair that is a size too small, and it is delightful comedy. These moments are funniest in a film that thrives on its small moments.
There’s also a great chemistry with one of her neighbours, Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin), who observes and pushes Amélie. She is an interesting character because she’s adamant to improve other people’s lives but is scared to put herself out there and improve her own, which is relatable. A lot of the film involves Amelie finding a photo album with reassembled photo booth photographs and meaning to return it to its rightful owner, Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz). She puts off meeting him because she’s scared to put herself out there – but Amélie also has a flair for the theatrics.
This makes the romance in Amélie unique because their interaction with each other is limited, but it’s also what gives Amélie such a playful and magical vibe. Watching this film made me feel light as a feather during its fantasy, though my main complaint here is it starts to feel light on actual plot in the second half. There’s still so much beauty and comedy in the randomness of Amélie’s world, and the main performance and supporting players make this spectacular.
The film thrives on the small moments in life, helping others but more importantly, remembering to help yourself. The film is about kindness at its core, and Amélie leads by that example. The film’s a charmer for it.