Published Dec 01, 2004Adapted from the beloved novel, A Very Long Engagement tells the story of a war-torn romance in which it's presumed that the man has died in battle and all that is keeping the woman going is unrealistic hope. Cold Mountain, you say? Could very well be, but A Very Long Engagement is Jean-Pierre Jeunet's much anticipated follow-up to 2001's Amélie. However, A Very Long Engagement does bear an uncanny resemblance to last year's Nicole Kidman epic, which is certainly distracting. Engagement tells the story of Mathilde (the adorable Audrey Tatou), a young woman whose entire life has grown to revolve around her search for her supposedly deceased fiancé, Manech (Gaspard Ulliel). Mathilde uses every resource at her disposal to try and uncover the truth, which leads her to a wide array of colourful and incredibly quirky characters, including a tiny but heartbreaking performance by Jodie Foster entirely in French.
By far the most admirable aspect of this film is its technical achievement. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, with some of the shots worthy of being framed on a gallery wall. The sets and costumes are almost equally impressive, as are some of the battle sequences. But what gives Engagement its heart is Jeunet's absurdist style, which he sprinkles throughout the characters and plot. This contrasts the fairly horrific content and gives the film a generally light feeling. But as the film wears on, Jeunet's quirkiness is not enough to sustain the repetitive and predictable story, and A Very Long Engagement ends up feeling like just a very long movie. Opens Dec. 17. (Warner Independent)