What follows is the stretching of Younes’s circle of moral identification, and he bumps up against those who would be united to him by faith, by country, by ideals, and finally by a surprising sort of love. Michael Lonsdale shines as a canny cleric — a man who believes but also knows the political uses of faith — and Ismaël Ferroukhi’s smooth direction keeps the intricate story clear enough to let the characters hold our attention. The soundtrack slips from moody jazz trumpet to traditional North African ballads with surprising ease.
Hey, you. You there, the bearish Swede with the gut and the bald spot and the bad teeth and the ungainly limbs. What would you do if Audrey Tautou, the angelic pixie of Amélie, glided up to you at work and kissed you, long and hard?
But wait, there’s a catch: she did it while in a fugue state brought on by overwhelming, years-old grief over the death of her beloved, handsome husband. And now she wants you to forget the whole thing.
That’s the big hook of Delicacy, even if it’s not exactly what the film is about. What it’s about is the grief, and it paints a careful and detailed — if somewhat muted — portrait. Last year’s Rabbit Hole plunged us into Nicole Kidman’s life after the death of her child. She was a live wire, stretched thin and snapping, sparks everywhere. Delicacy takes a much slower, more crushing approach, first giving us ample time to enjoy the sight of Nathalie (Tautou) and François (Pio Marmaï) enjoying each other as young lovers in Paris. It’s all impossibly lovely — they even like each other’s parents. Then he gets hit by a car, and we cut to Nathalie enduring a long line of consoling huggers at the graveside — a dark version of the matrimonial receiving line. We’re spared the shock and devastation that comes with loss. What we suffer instead are the numbing and paralysis that follow. Nathalie is, as she puts it, “walled up in grief.”
Some walls you can smash. This one has to be dismantled piece by piece, and some of the bricks are lodged more tightly than others. But that fugue is the first crack in the mortar, and the bearish Swede is nothing if not persistent. And funny. And attentive. And homely. Few can understand what seems to be happening between the bear and the pixie. Happily, they don’t need to.
Reviewed in the movie capsules: Goon and The Trouble with Bliss.