LFF 2019: La Belle Époque – Review

Release date – 22nd November, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 55 minutes, Director – Nicolas Bedos

An ageing man (Daniel Auteuil) goes through an experience that takes him back to the day he met his now distanced wife (Fanny Ardant)

La Belle Époque may very well be one of the best time travel movies where time travel never actually happens. Victor (Daniel Auteuil) is a depressed, ageing man. He feels that his life is going nowhere, and his love-life retreating, feeling a large distance from his wife Marianne (Fanny Ardant). However, one day he meets a young entrepreneur (Guillaume Canet) who offers him the chance to go back to his more youthful days. Through a company that he owns that builds set, hires actors and creates realistic, exact recreations of historical events for clients willing to pay thousands for their own personal escapism. While some figures choose to go back to the era of Nazi Germany or medieval history Victor chooses to be transported to 1974, the day he first met his wife, to be exact.

Victor, much like the viewer, finds himself almost immediately swept up within the warmly lit town square that’s built specially for him. There’s something about the look and relaxed feel of the set that somehow brings about a sense of familiarity – something which Victor instantly feels, along with a deep sense of nostalgia. He knows exactly what will happen, what will be said and when it will be said in the titular cafe where he and his wife first met. His wife in this case being played by a young actress called Margot (Doria Tillier), who when around he begins to break character of his younger self to tell her what she’s meant to say next, and how. It’s not long until Victor begins to fall for Margot, wanting to see her outside of the set, or as much as possible when on-set. The time he spends with her contrasting with the arguments he has with his wife, who he fears might want to separate from him.

As a whole writer-director Nicolas Bedos’ film is very much one about one man’s reflection. A wistful look back at his youth and why he fell in love in the first place. It’s relaxed nature helps it to simply overflow with charm, and makes the romance element of this rom-com feel far from forced. The comedy easily finding its way in too, with a number of deeply funny laugh-out-loud moments throughout, with the odd welcome chuckle thrown in from good measure too. Everything simply combines to create a welcoming and deeply enjoyable film.

The audience are put into Victor’s shoes and are carefully guided along the same journey. A thoughtful, imaginative, entertaining journey of reflection. Through his rises and falls the viewer gets behind Auteuil’s fantastic central performance – backed up by an equally strong supporting cast. He’s a deeply likeable character, a creation from the combination of Auteuil’s acting and the wonderfully sweet and finely paced screenplay. When everything comes together the final product is a deeply sweet and charming rom-com. Easily involving and overflowing with warmth, heart, laughs and emotion it’s a wonderfully put together and engaging feature that keeps the viewer in its gentle hold from start to finish of its calm and quick flowing run-time.

Filled with great performances La Belle Époque is a deeply warm, sweet and charming affair that throughout its humour, emotion and entertainment never forgets its core themes and ideas.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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