A Very Long Engagement (Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles)
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In 1917, Manech (Gaspard Ulliel) is sent to war, leaving his fiancée, Mathilde (Audrey Tautou), behind. When Mathilde receives a letter saying that Manech has been killed in battle, she refuses to believe it—because she and Manech shared a bond so strong that she would have immediately felt his loss if he’d been killed. Determined to find Manech, Mathilde—a crippled orphan who lives with her aunt and uncle and their farting dog—sets out to find out what really happened to him.

The government claims that Manech was one of five men who were condemned to die for attempting to mutilate themselves in order to be sent home from battle. The five men had been sent to the front lines of battle, to a place called Bingo Crepuscule, where they were sent out of the trench to face their death at the hands of the Germans. According to the government’s records, all five were killed.

During her search for the truth, Mathilde meets the man who had escorted the five men to their deaths. He gives her a box of the men’s belongings—pictures, letters, and other items. And as she begins to piece the men’s stories together, Mathilde sets out for Paris to find the loved ones of the four other men—to see if they can help her in her search.

Since Un Long Diamanche de Fiançailles (or, in English, A Very Long Engagement), came from the director and star of Amélie, I expected a beautiful, captivating film. And it definitely lived up to my expectations. The story itself, based on the novel by Sébastien Japrisot, is spellbinding. It has a wonderful mix of drama, action, and romance. There’s even a bit of mystery—and a touch of the quirky humor found in Amélie. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet translates the story to film beautifully, mixing battle scenes with scenes from Mathilde’s search and her past with Manech. And while the film is shockingly graphic at times, the violence only serves to make the film even more powerful and dramatic.

Audrey Tautou could not have been more perfect for her role as Mathilde. She gives her character both an eternally-hopeful innocence and a mischievous side that immediately draws viewers to her. She’s able to brighten up even the darkest scenes with her hopefulness and determination.

Since this film is entirely in French with English subtitles, be warned that you may find it difficult to keep all of the characters straight. This isn’t a simple film to follow—especially while reading subtitles—and you may need to pause from time to time, to compare notes with your fellow viewers. But don’t give up—it’s well worth the effort.

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