Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Written by: Guillaume Laurant
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravotta, Serge Merlin
Having an imagination keeps us young and can help guide us even through the most difficult times of our lives. A beautiful and fulfilling message that Amélie ensures the audience walks away with. It expertly captures that through its playful style of storytelling, but also by a career-defining performance by its lead actor.
After a traumatic childhood, Amélie (Audrey Tatou) used her imagination to get through life and now works as a waiter at a local cafe. After interactions with people, she realizes that she can do some good for each of them and help them achieve happiness in even the smallest ways, which leads her down her own path of contentment.
Even in our cynical world, there are reminders about the beauty of everyday interactions and the impact we can have on others. Amélie is a beautiful reminder of this as each scene contains such beautiful optimism and the cinematography plays into it. Just like the story, the cinematography has this beautiful aesthetic that feels unique to this story. It adds to the magical realism at play that makes the story feel like a fantasy at times.
The beauty comes from the character of Amélie, which Audrey Tautou plays absolutely perfectly. She completely embodies this character and captures the unique and quirky behavior the character requires. It does beg the question about whether or not this character truly exhibits strange behavior, or does she show such a pure attitude of positivity that all of the small gestures she commits seem out of this world? Tautou nails every fourth-wall-breaking look and little smile even in the most awkward situation that can recontextualize every interaction. It truly shows one of the great performances of the 2000s and one that will forever remain her magnum opus performance.
Much of the comedy within the film comes from the magical realism throughout the story. Amélie spends much of the plot helping others find happiness in any way. Whether that be her setting up a co-worker with a man she crushes on or helping someone realize their dream and overcome their fears. Each interaction has its beautiful moments and the magic comes from the feelings Amélie feels in those moments. It takes the descriptions one would read and make them literal through the storytelling. For example, Amélie first makes eye contact with her love interest, Nino and she literally melts onto the floor. Something that would be cheesy in another film but aptly fits the tone of this film in every way.
With each interaction, even with Amélie doing the bare minimum at times, it shows that it makes a lasting impact on those individuals. It shows just how much of an impression we can have on others through the smallest actions. It can be as simple as Amélie walking a blind man to the Métro station and describing the streets in such a beautiful manner. It may be fleeting and simple, but it brings the beauty of the world around them back into the mind of a person who may have forgotten the images long ago. It all makes such a difference and Amélie’s actions are a stark reminder of that.
Most importantly it shows the motivation of Amélie leaning on the lack of her focusing on her own issues of isolation. She finds that purpose in helping others but it’s not until we’re far into the film that she takes a moment to think of herself and what she needs to achieve happiness. It’s a feeling many can relate to, which adds to the bright beacon this character represents. Even when taking care of everyone else, we must always remember to find happiness for ourselves and not fixate that on others.
Through its comedic moments and loving touches of friendship Amélie demonstrates beautiful filmmaking followed by a beautifully French score that fully engrosses the audience into this almost alien world where kindness is practiced and gets rewarded in the end. It features one of the great performances this century has to offer bundled with strong filmmaking in every aspect. It took me more time than I am proud to admit to finally watch this film and it lived up to the reputation it has built. It stands as one of the great romantic comedies in all of cinema and a token to kindness and to care for others.