(Gad Elmaleh) lives for the
moment. He plays piano in a jazz club at night, parties and sleeps with women
without commitment. Charlotte (Sophie Marceau) is a career woman with three
children and a jealous husband (Francois
) whom she’s separated from. Sacha and Charlotte have nothing in
common. But they might just be made for each other. 

Typical rom-com has its charms.

FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL: There’s an effortless sweetness about Happiness Never Comes Alone that goes a long way in plastering over some of its 'only-in-the-movies’ rom-com moments. Already a major hit in its domestic market with a box office take nearing 11million Euros, this crowd-pleaser from James Huth exudes both French joie de vivre and a borderless exuberance that could make it irresistible to festival and arthouse crowds.

Huth and Shillito show a confident degree of insight into the plight of mature-age singles

A modern spin on the old Doris Day/Rock Hudson romances about 40-somethings with kids, the husband-and-wife team of Huth and co-writer Sonja Shillito (Hellphone, Lucky Luke) have crafted a relentlessly perky and upbeat charmer.

Gad Elmaleh is Sacha, a free-spirited, child-phobic musician who spends his days composing jingles and his nights in Parisian jazz clubs playing up a storm while bedding commitment-free conquests half his age.

During a pitch session to secure funding for a long-in-development musical, Sacha meets the accident-prone Charlotte (Sophie Marceau); despite the attraction being instantaneous, their blossoming romance must overcome hurdles, both comedic (the revelation that she’s a mum comes by way of a mid-coitus bedroom visitor), and dramatic (Charlotte’s powerful husband is a sinister influence).

Elmaleh (The Valet, Priceless) is so polished an actor, his take on the shallow boy-man persona seems all too real, but it is in fact a beautifully balanced performance. When the realisation dawns upon Sacha that true love is there for the taking if he accepts all its responsibilities, Elmaleh finds profundity in a film that hasn’t offered much up to that point.

Yet it’s the warmth and energy of Sophie Marceau that dominates Huth’s film, the director drawing the kind of performance that makes her seem larger than life. Called on to nail some wildly physical comedy as well as convince as a tough but loving single mum, Marceau positively radiates charisma, unburdened by the period costumes or dark subtexts that often dominate her films.

Huth and Shillito show a confident degree of insight into the plight of mature-age singles and their quest for love and romance, but Happiness Never Comes Alone is not the film to see if you want a deeper understanding of that dating world. Awash in cinematographer Staphane le Park’s bright colours, Huth never fails to remind us that this is very much a movie romance; not for the first time in cinema history, a love for Casablanca provides common ground for our sweethearts. Cynics may groan at the inherent clichés, but cast and crew pull off familiar situations with gentle laughs and a winning sentiment.