the REVIEW | ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS

What happens when the person you love, loves you back but is just too shy and awkward to do anything about it?

The answer should be: not a lot, but in the case of this laugh a minute French indie, anything and everything from a series of cringe worthy moments and tear-jerking setbacks, happen to unite two hopeless individuals in their quest to break their loneliness cycle.

Meet the fair-haired, mild-mannered and very anxious Angélique Delange. Pretty as a picture and very manic pixie – French girl –  if such a title were to exist it would include Amélie, every character Clémence Poésy has played and somewhere along the trail. Her ‘quirk’ in this feature happens to be that she is afraid… of almost everything; she attends a support group, though it’s hardly anonymous seeing as she’s divulging much of her history and identity to a room of jittery strangers. One of her redeemable qualities being that she’s an incredible chocolatier, so much so she spent much of her career working as an award-winning chocolatier … on the basis that her identity would never be revealed.

In alleviating her anxieties to the group she takes her first steps towards being more assertive and positively receptive towards attention. Across the way in a small independent chocolate factory,  the thought of displaying any semblance of intimacy sends The Chocolate Mill factory owner  Jean-René’s sweat glands into overdrive. This is the least of his worries however after it is revealed his factory is in danger of closure if they don’t sell their boring treats soon.  So he advertises for a new sales advisor and as fate would have it, it’s the perfect opportunity for Miss Delange to get herself back in the chocolate making game. No sooner does she step into the factory that everything clicks into place… including their love for each other, but with neither able to articulate their thoughts and feelings without hitting the panic button, it’s clear that something’s got to give or else all is doomed to fail.

Isabelle Carré is fantastic as the endearingly awkward, smart, creative and extremely gifted social recluse –  the character of Angélique Delange is beautiful and inherently flawed, I’d go as far as to say that, had it not been for the presence of the equally tortured Jean-René (Benoît Poelvoorde) I would have spent much of the film screaming at the screen. That’s what’s so great. How impatient I felt about them finding their voice and each other, as soppy as it sounds it’s also genuinely sad. As light as this film looks, and for the most part is, the underlying discussion on an illness warped by taboos and assumptions that a good self-help book and therapy session can solve what is in effect a very crippling issue is interesting. 
Also it has to be said that this is a film that could have been cast with a much younger leading lady and man. Carré would have been close to her 40’s when this film was released, and it’s obvious that Poelvoorde is no spring chicken, but what’s increasingly progressive and brilliant about French cinema is their respect and inclusion of  mature actors. They bring out the best in a well written script and they may very well improve on a not so good one. This is the case with Romantics Anonymous. It’s nothing groundbreaking, it’s not even on parr with French films alike and done before. It will most likely slip into oblivion over time, but everyone on-screen is genuinely intriguing to watch, so much so I found myself wishing for an Amélie format where we delved a little deeper into their lives – where their own personal phobias could have perhaps been exposed. Instead we scrape the surface, dipping only a couple of times, into a premise which could have been explored to intriguing and illuminating effect.
A pleasant, attractive looking film (what can I say, it’s French)  with a good cast. Great for a weekend view or those weekdays when you’re stuck with nothing to do.
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