"There is something hauntingly realistic about Angèle and Tony..."

Winning two César awards in it's native country of France, Angèle and Tony is not your typical French romance flick, as Alix Delaporte's debut feature is a thought-provoking, and affecting drama, far away from the charm and amicability that is often associated with French cinema.

Based in a quiet fishing harbour in Normandy, we meet Angèle (Clotilde Hesme), a vindictive and malicious woman, recently released from jail and arriving in the small town to attempt a new start, and potentially find herself a new partner.

She is self-absorbed and narcissistic and, despite initially wanting to take advantage of someone in helping her find a place to stay and earn herself a new job, she meets Tony (Grégory Gadebois), and suddenly her initial sentiments are replaced with adoration, as she falls for the ungainly and lonely fisherman. But will the pair manage to form a relationship in spite of their quite extreme differences in personality? Angèle and Tony is a story of two people who need each other much more than either would have you believe, despite the variety of obstacles which stand in their way, as Tony's abrasive mother Myriam (Evelyne Didi) is uncertain of  Angèle - who also has an estranged son she is attempting to reconnect with.

There is something hauntingly realistic about Angèle and Tony, offering something completely different to archetypal French romantic drama. We've become accustomed the to grand Parisian romances, with roses in mouths and kisses under the Eiffel Tower, yet Delaporte is presenting a small town romance, and as a result it certainly feels less expansive, but far more pragmatic, representative of the film's setting.  

The setting therefore plays quite an important role in the overall ambience of the feature, as the serenity and isolation of the small town in which the film is set, is reflected in the protagonists, enhancing the sentiment that both Angèle and Tony are two lonely and dejected characters. The music chosen for the picture is also representative of such a persuasion, as it is scarcely used throughout the film, therefore leaving the expression of emotions mostly through the subtle facial expressions of the leading actors. When implemented, however, the music is somewhat generic, perhaps too conspicuous and therefore manipulative of the emotions being portrayed.

The greatest aspect to Angèle and Tony, is the relationship between the two, and the amount of layers and complications to it, enhanced by how perfect they appear together and the endearment that follows as a result. They are both damaged, and clearly need each other as much as the other does, which really makes you root for them to get together. Delaporte intelligently introduces both characters with little explanation or background knowledge, as we know very little about either of them prior to their first meeting. Therefore we grow to comprehend who they really are at the exact same time as they do with one another, no doubt a reason behind our support of their affinity, as we feel almost as though we are joining them on their journey.

They prove to be opposites in both personality and also in a physical sense, as she is beautiful whilst he portrays the everyday man, which Gadebois manages to encapsulate with a wonderfully gormless expression throughout. Angèle is spiteful and merciless, whilst Tony is heart-warming and endearing, turning out to be a very sad character. Even their names symbolise the differences in their characters, as her glamorous name which translates as 'Angel' conflicts with his everyday, quite common name. Therefore the fact we want them to get together is testament to the really wonderful performances from both Hesme and Gadebois, as you would think we would want her as far away from him as possible, but it is in fact the complete opposite.

They aren't the only characters in the film of course, as Delaporte manages to bring depth to a few supporting roles, such as Tony's intrusive mother, and his petulant and convulsive younger brother Ryan (Jérome Huguet) - both roles pivotal to the story and the relationship between Angèle and Tony.

Despite being a very poignant drama, my main criticism of the feature is that it is a little inconclusive, as we leave the film knowing slightly less about the characters than perhaps we would have hoped for. There are still question marks over her spell in prison, and how Tony's father had died - and such themes, despite being explored within the film, remain unanswered and incomprehensible. Yet on an emotional level I feel we know just enough about them both - and that's good enough for me.