The man and woman in question—cute Nathalie and humdrum Markus—both work at a Swedish firm in Paris. Markus’ past remains unexplored, but one look at this style-challenged, thirty-something, balding, repressed man speaks volumes. Apparently resigned to solitude, he contrasts in almost every way with irresistible Nathalie.
She anchors the film from beginning to end, starting with her idyllic marriage until, very early on, husband Francois dies. Supported by family and friends, she copes by throwing herself into her work. Missing an opportunity to delve into Nathalie’s grief-coping mechanisms, the story jumps three years forward. With Nathalie’s boss enamored of her, she begins to notice Markus, to everyone’s astonishment. It is here that brothers David and Stéphane, adapting David’s novel La Délicatesse, pursue fresh material, for friends and co-workers, as well as the boss, find Markus’ attraction incomprehensible. Who has not at some time wondered about the connection between two very dissimilar people?
Delicacy’s appeal depends on Audrey Tautou. As Nathalie, she reprises her Amélie approach to acting: stillness, composure, and total confidence in her pixie charm. The viewer must supply the insight suggested, an understated approach so different from Hollywood’s. This includes several scenes following Nathalie as she walks hallways, from office to office, and down long, deserted streets. Understatement dominates as silent reaction shots convey characters’ embarrassment and disbelief. At times music and songs accompany contemplative moments, but a slow pace prevails. The French title Délicatesse connotes a thoughtful subtlety, an accurate description of the film and a variation on our connotation of fragility. Embracing that French concept is critical to appreciating the quirky, heartfelt Delicacy.
In French with English subtitles. At a Landmark Theatre.