Delicacy is a well written and thought-provoking piece from first time feature director and writer David Foenkinos, adapting his novel La Delicatesse for the screen. It’s as unpredictable as it is innovative but lacks consistency in places, at times the film seems unsure of its message, but as it goes on it gathers momentum and strong performances from both Andrey Tautou and Francois Damiens give the film an intensity that keeps the viewer’s eyes glued to the screen.
It’s difficult to talk about this film without giving away spoilers, so to give the reader a fair warning if you want to avoid spoilers avoid the upcoming paragraph.
(SPOILER) The film’s opening quirky, light romantic tone doesn’t fit with the rest of the film’s later melodrama, and for a character of such significance Francois, the central protagonist’s boyfriend, should have been fleshed out to a greater extent. Showing a mere glimpse of their relationship gives his death a sudden impact but this brief glimpse we see of Francois makes it more difficult for the audience to relate to Nathalie’s attachment to him later. (End of Spoiler)
Tautou clearly relishes playing with her image as the charming French girl, and here she portrays a difficult and complex character who is at times unsure of herself, hesitant, needy and withdrawn. She meets a gentle, softy spoken Swede called Markus at work, and a relationship gradually blossoms out of an impromptu kiss in the office.
One way of looking at the film is as a documentary of relationships and there is a clear theme of growth running through the movie; the nature of the film channeling the development of Nathalie is intensified by the visit to her childhood home at the end of the film.
Hidden among this romance however, is a critique of bourgeois upper class French society, lost within their own vanity, valuing looks over character, and style over sensitivity. This can be seen by the reaction of Nathalie’s friends to her relationship with the unconventional Markus, and particularly with the evasive, and threatening Charles (Bruno Todeschini), who gives Markus a hard time in one particularly uncomfortable scene, as his paper thin charming veneer shows the cracks beneath.
Nathalie’s friends offer sympathetic smiles to her face, whilst judging her behind her back, and it’s not hard to see the appeal in the kind hearted Markus. Markus, however is by no means one dimensional and matches Nathalie for complexity. Francois Damiens gives the film much needed heart, as Markus injects warmth into a film which is at the times uncomfortably detached and cold.
David Foenkinos clearly has the energy of a new director, the cinematography is beautiful and the editing sharp. The film is like a jigsaw, a jumble of parts, some fitting together better than others, an example being a sequence with Markus and a series of beautiful women which oddly feels a little like a lynx advert. By the end of the film however, we see enough of a picture to build a satisfying whole.