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

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The surprisingly thoughtful prequel trilogy comes to a powerful conclusion with this robust, dramatic thriller,...

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes At Night Movie Review

This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but...

Okja Movie Review

Okja Movie Review

As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising...

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

This may be the third reboot of this franchise in 15 years, risking audience exhaustion,...

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain...

Advertisement
Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver Movie Review

Wildly energetic and so cool it hurts, this action movie has been put together in...

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

There's a clear sense that this Tupac Shakur biopic is hoping to build on the...

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

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.