"Sadness is essential because it makes you more susceptible to feeling things fully," Cynthia Kneen has written. But for most of us, this emotional state is feared and to be avoided. When someone close to us plunges into an abyss of sadness after the death of a loved one, we try desperately to pull him or her out of it. Instead, we should be more patient; there is no universal timetable for grief and oftentimes our efforts to bring a grieving person back into the everyday swing of things are cruel and insensitive.
When we lose someone close to us, we also lose the things they did for us. Thus, one of the challenges of mourning is to find new ways to fulfill our needs. But that takes time. While we try to adjust, our family and friends may only see isolation, withdrawal, and depression. Delicacy is a French film that boldly and creatively explores the soulscape of sadness in the life of a pretty young wife after her husband is hit by a car while jogging and dies.
Francois (Pio Marmai) and Natalie (Audrey Tautou) are two Parisians who meet casually and are married on a day when it snows. Their love is nothing like the weather; it is hot and romantic. Then one ordinary day, it is all taken away from Natalie when he is killed. She is lost to her birth family, his parents, and her best friend (Josephine de Meaux) who all try to rescue her from what they perceive as a prison of sadness.
For three years, Natalie devotes all her time and energy to her work at a Swedish firm. Her handsome and domineering boss (Bruno Todeschini) is romantically attracted to her even though he is married. After refusing many invitations for dinner, Natalie finally gives in and he pours on the charm. But it all comes to naught given her dislike of his controlling and arrogant personality.
Instead, Natalie bestows her affections on Markus (Francois Damiens), a colleague from Sweden who works for her on a planning team. One day out of the blue, she flutters free of her sadness and spontaneously plants a long and juicy kiss on his lips. Markus is stunned and amazed at this unimaginable gift. He is a shy and unpretentious man who then responds by asking Natalie out on a date. She finds his humor and humility to be very appealing. And when she introduces him to her beloved grandmother, the old woman says she likes him because he has a good heart.
Stephane and David Foenkinos direct this Gallic drama which does a remarkable job examining the complexity and dynamics of sadness.
There are moments of magic that bring to mind the romantic rhythms of Audrey Tautou's performance in Amelie but Delicacy stands admirably on its own feet. Audrey Tautou and Francois Damiens are very appealing as the widow and the Swedish co-worker whose dance of desire is slow and moving. Here is a poem that catches the spirit of the film:
"I know a cure for sadness:
Let your hands touch something that
makes your eyes
I bet there are a hundred objects close by
that can do that.
beauty's gift to us —
her power is so great she enlivens
the earth, the sky, our
— Mirabai in Mala of the Heart
by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt