Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's (Delicatessen, Amelie) magnificent adaptation of Sebastien Japrisot's acclaimed novel A Very Long Engagement is the grand tale of Mathilde (Audrey Tautou), a defiant young woman from provincial France who has lost her fiancé, Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), in the trenches of the Somme in World War One. Three years on, Mathilde unfailingly believes that Manech is still alive and even information to the contrary will not sway her heart. Piecing together the grim events of Manech's disappearance, Mathilde embarks on a relentless quest to learn what became of her lover, clinging to every clue as a tiny, precious thread of hope.
This is a rich, visually spectacular romantic odyssey, bringing together a jigsaw of complex, disseminated lives through the emotional and physical wounds of war. Jeunet has such a deeply human understanding of his slightly surreal characters – each distinct and finely drawn identity he weaves into Mathilde's epic pursuit, even for a few moments, is wrought with history, resonance and resolution, bringing a tacit world of myth, humour, horror and sentiment to the story.
In Jeunet's decadent scramble to encapsulate as much of the novel as possible, the film does become slightly, though forgivably, jumbled toward the end. Thankfully, like Amelie, A Very Long Engagement captures all the darkness, magnificence and magic realism of a modern fairytale and imbues it with the truest, warmest heart. From Audrey Tautou's gentle eyes that say more than words, to the heartbreaking absurdity of World War One's battlefields and the miraculous picture-book beauty of the cinematography, Jeunet's vision is an unforgettable dream.