Friday, 9 December 2011

'Romantics Anonymous' review:

A very slight and shamelessly frothy romantic comedy from French writer-director Jean-Pierre Améris, 'Romantics Anonymous' is a genuinely heart-warming proposition. It sees two highly strung, middle-aged chocolatiers, who use confectionery as a substitute for relationships, meet after Angélique (Isabelle Carré) goes to work at the near-bankrupt company of Jean-René (Benoît Poelvoorde).

Both have extreme social anxiety issues and live lives of quiet regret instead of facing up to their fears. Angélique can't bear to the focus of any attention - and gets tongue tied in conversation - which leads her to hide her superior chocolate making skills from her employer, acting instead as an incredibly meek sales rep. Meanwhile, Jean-René comes across as mean when he is really just deathly afraid of human contact and has no idea how to talk to women.

The title comes from the fact that Angélique belongs to a sort of Alcoholic Anonymous style support group for those with emotional problems, whilst Jean-René is often seen consulting his therapist. These scenes, whilst funny, provide insight into the characters, showing that (though the word is never used) they are autistic rather than just a couple of quirky oddballs. Both lead characters are expertly observed.

It runs for a satisfying 80 minutes and consistently generates gentle, affectionate laughs. Free of cynicism, it's set in a profoundly humane world where people aren't afraid to burst into spontaneous song and where the audience is encouraged to laugh along with the characters rather than at them. The third act isn't encumbered by the usual misunderstanding or childish argument and, as a result, it never outstays its welcome. It won't take a particularly shrewd viewer to predict exactly where this is all headed, but you won't begrudge these two outsiders their deliriously happy ending.

'Romantics Anonymous' is out now in the UK and rated '12A' by the BBFC.

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