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Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, Le (2001)

R · 122 minutes

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Written by Guillaume Laurant, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

 · Audrey Tautou
 · Mathieu Kassovitz
 · Rufus
 · Lorella Cravotta
 · Serge Merlin

Review by Thom Stricklin

I'm a little unsure how to introduce this film. I'd thought to discuss the history of French film (which dates back to the earliest days of film itself) or the misfortune of this film being limited to subtitles. But I can find more personal things to say.

I know someone who reminds me of Amelie Poulain. Yes, by coincidence she has short, dark hair and is gorgeous, but that's not the half of it. My friend, like Amelie, knows how to change lives. Wouldn't you know, though, we had a bit of a falling out a few months ago. She happened to change things in a way I didn't care for. It seemed pretty dismal.

Then one day, I saw Amelie sitting on its rack at the store, and after having seen a few intriguing previews, decided to buy it. That same evening, my friend and I started talking again, and by now all of our turmoil is simply water under the bridge. Who would've expected a film whose tagline is "She'll change your life" could live up to its promise?




Amelie Poulain is a young woman who's led a sheltered, isolated life, until she comes to an epiphany: she can touch people's lives, move them, and make them better. When she discovers this, she vows to become a "regular do-gooder", and in the process of doing so, expands from her tiny, routine life into a surreal and magical existence. The audience shares the experience from start to finish, feeling the same joy, excitement, hesitation and even fear that Amelie feels.

I'm not sure what makes this film so heartwarming... Perhaps it's that Amelie's innocent nature is so inviting, or perhaps the little Parisian neighborhood in which it takes place. I'd like to think, though, it's something about karma. "Do good in your life to others," the film suggests, "and your life will be made good as well." More simply, compassion can be its own reward. Perhaps some might consider such a theme to be childish and naive. If it is, I don't mind a bit. Isn't that such a beautiful approach to life, and so rare in this day and age?




There's very little fault to be found in this movie. Some have complained that this is little more than a typical French romantic comedy. But you know what? I haven't seen many French romantic comedies. If they're all this masterful, I'd say there's nothing wrong with being typical.

What might be the most obvious achievement of the film is its dazzling visuals. There's no doubt as to why this film was Oscar-nominated for its cinematography; I only wonder why it didn't win. I have seen very few films as beautiful as Amelie. As can be expected with French film, it's bathed in color--warm yellows, bold reds and greens. Jeunet was unafraid to use numerous crane shots to wrap around the subjects or follow them through the intricate Parisian cityscape. The result: a very grand, almost epic portal into one of the most intimate, personal stories captured on film in a number of years.

How could I forget? It was also nominated for best original screenplay. Behind the intricate details provided, it's a simple story about a girl who wants to love, and yet it is one of the most powerful & uplifting tales I've ever been privvy to. Perhaps what makes it even better is that things don't happen perfectly. Amelie tries to do good. Sometimes she succeed, and sometimes her attempts backfire tremendously. But despite the errors, we discover, life is left more beautiful than she found it.

I've read complaints about the special effects, particularly how "cheap" they looked. I believe this appearance of fakeness was intentional. This isn't a science fiction movie; the purpose is not to convince the audience that dinosaurs have been resurrected or an asteroid is hurtling towards the earth. No... I believe the special effects were created with almost a "painted" look to enhance the surreality of the film.



Amelie touched my life. It helped me to find understanding with a friend. I also started to catch myself performing little michievous acts, like putting someone's bookmark back a page, so that they might enjoy their book a bit longer. Perhaps most significantly, it inspired me creatively. After watching it my third time, I opened Word and within hours was staring at ten pages of manuscript for a screenplay. Whenever I suffer from a little creative lag, I put in Amelie and am reinvigorated, hoping that I might just write something as touching as this film.

Should you see Amelie? Yes, yes, yes!!! Rent it if you're skeptical; buy it if you love feel-good movies. But you must see it. You might not be as enthusiastic about it as I, and there's a chance you won't like it at all. But there's an outside possibility that this film will move you as it moved me, and as the film itself teaches, those are the chances we should take.

836 Words · Published: 11 March 2003

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