If you loved Amelie, chances are you'll like A Very Long Engagement - it's beautifully filmed, well-acted and a little too cute for its own good. Audrey Tautou stars as a plucky girl in post-World War I France, trying to track down her fiancé - one of five soldiers convicted of cowardice and sent to an almost certain death in no man's land. The trench-set sequences are grimly involving and the camera loves Tautou, but the uneven, quirky tone robs the movie of much emotion.
Director/co-writer Jean-Pierre Jeunet can't seem to help himself: he's just a kerazy guy. So, Tautou's semi-grieving girl plays the tuba by the sea and looks and sounds, yes, ridiculous. A shattered statue of Christ crucified stands on the wasteland of the Somme, but later we're asked to be amused by the elaborate murders of a mysterious female assassin (the terrific Marion Cotillard). It's not that you can't find black humour in war - just look at Gulf War classic Three Kings - but it's hard to make us care about the characters when the makers treat the Great War as the background for a fairytale.
"AUDIENCES WILL FALL FOR TAUTOU"
Tautou is a star, unquestionably, and she has the ability to make an audience fall for her. It's that which will carry fans through this long (very, very long) engagement, even if her character, like the film itself, looks good but has no real heart. It's beautiful, but not truthful: a pedigree shaggy dog story.
In French with English subtitles.