Anthony's Film Review
A funny and touching film about altruism and love...
If there's one benefit of watching foreign films made outside the country you live, it's that you get an opportunity to experience stories that filmmakers in your own country might not think of in the first place or otherwise not be inclined to produce. This, in turn, may allow you to look at certain things in life in a new way and to leave with unique life lessons. Or in some cases, the foreign film reminds us that everyone around the world is the same.
As an American, I was rather amused and touched by the 2001 French film Amelie. Audrey Tautou stars as the title character who is very introverted and has little social contact even when surrounded by people. She is the kind of person who gravitates to simple pleasures in life and does not require the company of others to enjoy those things. You can understand why as you watch the first several minutes depicting her childhood upbringing, accompanied by straightforward yet sometimes humorous narration.
The day her life begins to change is the day Princess Diana of Wales dies in a car crash along with Dodi Fayed. Actually, that event is not what directly changes her life, even if she may have a reaction to it. No, that event is essentially a coincidental moment. What happens shortly afterward is that she stumbles upon a loose bathroom wall tile, removes it, and discovers a small box of toys stashed away behind the bathroom wall. Naturally, she wants to locate the owner and return that box.
With some investigation and research, Amelie identifies the man who once owned the toy box. However, because of her shyness, she does not meet the man directly to give the box to him. Rather, she places it where, after a method of distraction, the man will stumble upon it. Amelie successfully returns the box and watches the man react, without ever letting him know that she was the one who found it.
This is something that lifts Amelie's heart. From there, she does the same again: secretly performing altruistic acts. At the cafe she works at, there is a male customer who has an eye on a particular lady working there, while a different female employee has a genuine interest in the man. Through subtle methods, Amelie brings the two better-matched people together. She also steals her father's garden gnome so she can photograph it in various travel spots and anonymously mail the pictures to her father, just so he could expand his collection of personal travel photos featuring the gnome.
The one exception to her secret acts of kindness is when she observes a food seller mistreating his younger employee. She breaks into the food seller's flat so that she can rearrange and modify certain things there, in an effort to drive him crazy and teach him a lesson. Then again, you can also look at this as an act of kindness towards the younger employee, by putting his boss out of the picture for a while and giving the younger man more freedom to be himself.
Meanwhile, there is one person who stirs up conflicting emotions. It's a man who is quirky like her, because he has an album collection of photos that he finds lying underneath a public photo booth, depicting a man he cannot yet identify. She seems to have found her match, but is too shy to accept that she might be in love with him. That's why, after the man loses the photo album, she plays a lengthy game with him in her effort to return the album, leaving multiple clues to lead him to it. This is a situation where it would be better for her to identify herself as the person recovering the lost item, and yet she cannot get herself to break her own shell.
This is one of those films that is both heartwarming and funny. It's nice to see various characters have good things come to them, and it's funny how they don't know for sure why they're happening. It's like a guardian angel is involved. And speaking of the guardian angel, it's nice to see whether Amelie can be rewarded herself, because a caring person like her deserves to be rewarded. On top of that, there are humorous moments, like Amelie's pondering of how many people are having sexual orgasms at a single moment, the food seller's frustrations with his altered flat, and the discovery of who is the man in the photo album.
Overall, Amelie is funny and heartwarming. The movie might feel a bit too long, but its length is fine as it is (it's two hours). If you can sit through it, then you can appreciate how life is wonderful with acts of kindness and how the central character in this movie reminds us to do the same, even if her altruism is done in weirdly creative ways.
For more information about Amelie, visit the Internet Movie Database.