There is little in Delicacy (aka La délicatesse) that surprises, enthrals or excites. It is romance as preferred (and proffered) by the female of the species, urging caution, patience, consideration and placidity from the male.
And that’s what Audrey Tautou’s gamine widow receives in Delicacy courtesy of a bearded, balding, shy co-worker (François Damiens) who plays the game and hopes to win the prize.
As leisurely paced as the heroine expects her love affair, this supposed rom-com is really a treatise on what to do (or otherwise) following a bereavement. In Nathalie’s case (Tautou) it’s out with the dead – she throws away her husband’s possessions immediately – and on with her life.
It’s a life driven by, consumed by and enveloped by work. For three long years. Then, in a waking daydream, she kisses a lowly, anonymous colleague, Markus (Damiens) and life takes a turn toward rehabilitation.
Loneliness plays as much of a part as love in Delicacy. Thus Markus must bide his time, second guess his love’s moods, emotions and psychological hang-ups. He must side-step guilt, jealousy, grief and suppressed passion. Office politics play a part, too, but that’s just an obstacle to leap over.
Tautou is a master at playing delicate, isolated, insulated characters. Here she is matched by Damiens as a man whom romance has abandoned. He’s a frumpy, crumpled bloke waking up to the possibilities of love, but the gift he seeks is damaged.
Written and directed by David and Stéphane Foenkinos from David’s novel Delicacy demands staying power from audiences who may expect more laughs, more raw emotions, more overt sensuality. Yet that’s precisely what this gentle fable does not require, relying instead on the hesitant nature of burgeoning affection, trust and honesty.
A fluffy story borne of initial tragedy, Delicacy is a fairytale for those who believe in true love and the potential for happy endings.