"“A charming and unequivocally French production, full up of the whimsicalities that defines cinema from this country...”"

The typewriter has proved to be quite the cinematic prop over the past couple of years, playing a starring role in the likes of Ruby Sparks and The Perks of Being a Wallflower – and now it returns, as the key ingredient in the love affair between two lost souls, in Régis Roinsard's beautifully romantic and delightfully easy to indulge in comedy, Populaire.

Set in 1958, we begin with the tedious and restrained livelihood of Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François) who decides to leave her small village to apply for a job as a secretary for the charismatic Louis Échard (Romain Duris) at his insurance agency – and although being clumsy and error-prone in her interview, her extraordinarily fast typewriting skills impress Louis, who hires her in an instance. Effectively living out his own dreams of triumph, Louis enters his new employee into a series of speed-typewriting competitions, hoping to train and nurture his protégée into the fastest typewriter in the world. However things get a little complicated once the pair develop feelings for one another...

Populaire is a charming and unequivocally French production, full up of the whimsicalities that defines cinema from this country. Such charm mostly derives from the character of Rose, who the audience simply can't help but adore. Her flaws and imperfections are endearing, and her quirky nature is amicable and alluring, portrayed in how she uses her typewriter, as the only woman in the competition using just two fingers while her competitors all use ten. Louis is equally as absorbing a character, and despite his competitive edge and how he mistreats Rose on occasion, there is simply something about him that the audience find sympathetic and sincere – no doubt helped along by the fact the character is being portrayed by Duris, an actor who carries so much natural charisma and screen presence.

The fledging romantic relationship between Rose and Louis is almost like that of a fairytale, not just helped along with the enchanting musical score, but François is effectively playing your typical Disney princess, with Duris as her Prince Charming. Bérénice Bejo – playing Louis' close friend and ex-partner is like the Fairy Godmother. Populaire is a very conventional romantic comedy, but it bears a tongue in cheek wit to it, with a absurdity that is reflected within the fact that the entire film is built largely around a rather inane and ineffectual competition – as we use this speed-typewriting contest as a vehicle to enter into this rather askew world. What we do end up with, however, is the blend between a rom-com and a formulaic competition narrative, such as Rocky or Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, for example. 

There are more poignant themes explored however, as the comment on society and sexism within the 1950's provides the film with some added depth. This is shadowed in the relationship between Rose and Louis, as he is clearly doing this all for himself, and you question whether Rose really wants to participate at all. Although presented in a somewhat frivolous manner, the overall metaphor reflects a woman's standing and aims in society from such a time. Meanwhile, Roinsard does a fine job in depicting the 50's, not only making the film look as though it has come from such an era, but it feels like it too – in a similar vein to how The Artist managed with the 1920's. For example, once Rose starts to rise to fame, they shoot her in soft focus, much like the Hollywood muses of old were portrayed. It's a fascinating and magical world to enter, as Paris itself is a majestic cinema setting, so as you can imagine, Paris in the 50's is even more surreal and romanticised.

Populaire is yet another addition in a long line of triumphant French rom-coms (From-coms), following on in the footsteps of the likes of Heartbreaker and Delicacy. The French simply know how to depict romance so sincerely and authentically on screen, and as they say in the movie itself, “Americanis for business. France is for love”.