Romantic comedies occupy a parallel universe where contrivance and coincidence are never given a second thought and where slushy declarations of undying love are par for the course.
Delicacy certainly manipulates its characters in improbable (and often predictable scenarios), but it’s sweet-natured enough that those elements are never overwhelming and it possesses a tenderness that many crasser romcoms lack.
Audrey Tautou plays Nathalie, a woman head over heels in love with her handsome boyfriend François. Skip ahead a few and they’re married and blissfully happy. Anyone that’s seen this kind of film before knows how this is going to go as unfettered, carefree happiness can only end in tragedy. Sure enough, François goes for a run and is promptly hit by a car.
Devastated, Nathalie throws herself into her work and as the years pass fends off the clumsy amorous manipulations of her slimy boss. But then one day, lost in her memories, she inadvertently shares a passionate kiss with her Swedish colleague Markus (François Damien). He’s immediately smitten but can Nathalie really fall for a lumbering, balding man of seemingly little consequence?
It’s a foregone conclusion but Delicacy remains charming because it has more subtlety that you’d expect from a Hollywood counterpart, never forgetting the grief that still dominates Nathalie’s life.
Audrey Tautou has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I’ve never really understood the fascination with her. She’s a competent actress certainly and she’s definitely beautiful, but neither of those qualities I’ve ever thought was especially remarkable. But here she’s lovely as a reserved woman who has oceans of grief behind professional eyes, someone whose barriers are eroded by Markus’s ungainly, softly-softly approach.
François Damien is extremely likeable as the goofy but good-natured Swede who has a tendency to run away like Napoleon Dynamite when flustered and it’s easy to root for him. At times, the reactions of other characters when they find out he and Nathalie are dating seem a little extreme – he’s not conventionally attractive sure, but from the way that others react to his presence, you’d think he was John Merrick’s little brother.
There are narrative problems too. Their initial kiss comes out of nowhere and is nothing more than a plot point and the final act in which they both leave work to go driving in the rain and end up at Nathalie’s grandma’s house doesn’t bear close examination. But it’s engaging, sweet, gentle and at times very funny and has what many other films of the genre lack – sincerity.