A Very Long Engagement

"Good"

A Very Long Engagement Review


Although there are likely better directors who could have been found to film Sebastien Japrisot's World War I-set novel A Very Long Engagement than Jean-Pierre Jeunet, of City of Lost Children fame and Alien: Resurrection infamy, there are many more who would have been worse - and if that sounds like a backhanded insult, it's not. The story of five French soldiers who are sentenced to death for self-inflicted wounds (done so that they could be evacuated from the front lines) and condemned to march out into the no man's land between the Germans' trenches and theirs, it's a tricky mix of war epic, black comedy, and heart-stirring romance that would have left many filmmakers flummoxed. And although Jeunet takes some serious missteps and doesn't know when to leave the jokes alone, he has mostly succeeded where many would have failed.

Although it starts off like a war film - opening in the muck and mire, as all good war films must - and gives us plenty of reason to understand why these soldiers shot themselves in the hand (a sort of purposeful self-stigmata), A Very Long Engagement is really about a woman trying to find her lost love. The woman, Mathilde, is played by Jeunet's muse, Audrey Tautou, and though she doesn't here have the near-angelic glow he gave her in Amelie, she's plenty captivating nonetheless. Mathilde fell in love with her childhood friend, Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), and we see their romance in flashback, all frolicking in their picturesque village, swooning episodes atop a lighthouse and innocent carnality. Then the war comes, and poor, fresh-faced Manech is sent off to the front, later to be one of the five hurled into no man's land by a callous military bureaucracy determined to make an example of them. After the war, Mathilde refuses to accept what seems obvious to everybody else, that Manech is dead, and she launches on a journey to dig up every last piece of information she can about the case and find out what happened to her one true love.

Now A Very Long Engagement is a Jeunet film, so even given this kind of high-concept romance, anyone expecting a foursquare kind of English Patient-style gloss will end up sorely disappointed. With his typically pixie-ish sense of humor, Jeunet brings a light and jaunty tone to a tale that could easily have been rendered brooding and overly artful. Thusly, the narrator continually relates the onscreen action like a gossipy best friend, with perfect comic timing, while bits of absurdity speckle the story, from Mathilde's incongruous tuba-playing to a subplot about one of the dead soldiers' lovers who resorts to impossibly complex methods of killing off those she believes responsible for his death. Jeunet also ratchets most of the performances up into the stratosphere, leaving little room left for subtlety.

Providing some nice ballast to some of the loony goings-on is a surprise turn from Jodie Foster, whose fluency in French helps her slip seamlessly into the otherwise all-Gallic cast. Her story is essentially extraneous to the main plot, but it's a small gem regardless. As the wife of one of the soldiers, who is infertile but wants her to have a child regardless, the husband convinces her to sleep with his best friend, and although she does it against her wishes, the two of them end up falling in love. Melodramatic to a fault, it's nevertheless the most real-seeming thing in the film, which can at times resemble a Belle Epoque bon bon, all quaint French villages and sweeping vistas of countryside.

Ravishing to look at and often quite touching, A Very Long Engagement is ultimately too manipulative to achieve true lasting greatness.

The DVD includes a second disc of extras, including commentary from Jeunet (in French), deleted scenes, and three making-of tracks.

Aka Un long dimanche de fiançailles.

A very long flight.



A Very Long Engagement

Facts and Figures

Run time: 133 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 27th October 2004

Box Office USA: $6.2M

Budget: $47M

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: Warner Bros. France, 2003 Productions, TF1 Films Production, Tapioca Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Fresh: 113 Rotten: 31

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Mathilde, as Manech, as Sylvain, as Bénédicte, as Pierre-Marie Rouvières, as Germain Pire, as Tina Lombardi, as Ange Bassignano, as Elodie Gordes, as Benjamin Gordes, as Six-Soux, as Un Breton, as Bastoche, as Six Sous, as Célestin Poux, Elina Löwensohn as la soeur de Günther, as Commandant Lavrouye

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.