A Very Long Engagement (Un long dimanche de fiançailles) (R, 2004)
Fans of Amélie (Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain) will recognize A Very Long Engagement as the work of an old friend. Still, though directed by Amélie’s Jean-Pierre Jeunet and featuring many of the same faces as that 2001 effort, Engagement is a decidedly different love story. Audrey Tautou’s (The Da Vinci Code) assertive and heartsick Mathilde is anything but the shrinking flower of her scheming and heartsick Amélie, though her comic timing and moments of poignant vulnerability are just as good. The tone is set by quick shifts between violent scenes of World War I trench warfare and gleeful 1920s Paris, both a far cry from contemporary Montmartre. And though Amélie features a fairly tangled web of mystery and love, neither quite reaches the epic proportions of Mathilde’s stubborn refusal to believe the official story of her fiancé Manech’s (Gaspard Ulliel, Paris, je t’aime) death in No Man’s Land and determined detective work to uncover the truth. Along the way she delves into the lives of several other characters, superbly played by the likes of Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs) and Marion Cotillard (La Vie en rose). If Manech were dead, Mathilde says, she would know. Do you believe her?