Watching Amélie is an experience you’re unlikely to forget. The 2001 French romantic comedy directed by Jean-Pierre Jennet is a film like no other; the way it is shot, the way it is acted, every aspect is unabashedly unique and incredibly refreshing. Starring Audrey Tautou as the titular character, the film is set in Montmartre, Paris.
Amélie is a young, whimsical girl with a tragic childhood. She is brought up by her father after her mother dies in a tragic accident. Her childhood experiences shape her life as adult; her wild imagination becomes her constant companion. She works as a waitress in a small café and leads a seemingly content life.
Amélie remains the main focus for the entirety of the film
One strange incident sets her off on a unique mission- she decides that she wants to spend the rest of her life making people happy. For the rest of the film, we watch Amélie cause chaos and mischief in the lives of those around her, all in the hope of making a difference in the world.
She helps her colleague find love; she ensures that an old man gets back a little box of childhood memorabilia and helps her father overcome his anxiety and fulfil his dreams of travelling the world. All of this, Amélie believes, will truly bring these individuals joy and contentment.
Along the way, she falls in love with an equally eccentric young man named Nico (Mathieu Kassovitz). But Amélie is afraid to meet him; her fear of rejection and abandonment keeps the two apart for most of the movie. Amélie concocts elaborate plans to meet Nico and introduce herself but whenever a chance arises, she stops herself from doing so.
Her insecurities are evident. She would rather bring joy and happiness in another person’s life than focus on resolving the problems on her own. The arrival of Nico makes it seem like Amélie finally has a chance to see what she wants for herself.
Paris is exquisitely shot in the film
The film is shot entirely in Paris, a Paris that is captured to be safe, dreamy and perfect. It is the Paris of someone’s imagination, far from reality. Most of the film feels almost surreal with the colours the director infuses in every shot. The presence of a narrator makes it seem all the more like a fairy-tale. Audrey Tautou is exquisite as Amélie; she breathes life into the character. She is equal parts charming, quirky and incredibly endearing.
As Amélie goes about her little misadventures, as viewers we get to witness Paris like never before. The lanes and by-lanes of the bustling city, the interpersonal dynamics of Parisians and the sense of wonder associated with Paris comes through brilliantly. The film is a fantasy, an escape and the director makes that evident right from the very start. However, Amélie as a character is still deeply relatable and very easy to empathise with.