Angèle et Tony

Aaah, love… or, as the French call it, l’amour… or, as the Germans call it Liebe … for today I’ll review a French film on l’amour that I watched while staying in Germany.

Fans of comparisons may be keen to hear that Angèle et Tony reminded me of Ken Loach‘s Raining Stones. Only here it’s not about getting a child a wonderful dress, but it’s all about love. In a way, as both protagonists – Angèle and Tony, as you might have guessed – are not the most romantic people in the world. But the tone of both movies is similar.

Another movie that Angèle et Tony is reminiscent of is Naked (by Mike Leigh) and this for two reasons. Angèle is the sort of hard-headed woman that wouldn’t be out of place in Leigh’s masterpiece about lost souls. This is proven – and that’s the second reason – by the opening scene where Angèle is involved in a bit of rough, loveless sex: not in an nightly alley, but in a daytime environment that could only be described as romantic if you have a fetish for concrete. After the sex, she gets a doll for his son and races to a pub to meet Tony.
Tony is late and instead of talking he brings her to her work. Only she doesn’t go for another shift in the factory, she nicks a bike and rushes off to the school. Just in time to give the doll to the boy’s grandfather. Angèle, you see, lost her parental rights and that’s not all: every now and then she has to check in with the social services to see if she doesn’t stray from the right path again. Like stealing a bike… of which she knows nothing, of course.

So is Tony’s life a bit more romantic? Don’t get your hopes up too high: Tony lives with his mother, he and his brother are fishermen and their mother sells the fish at the market. It isn’t exactly screaming out romance to me.
So why have Angèle and Tony hooked up? Tony is tired of being alone and advertised his interest in a potential partner in a newspaper ad. Angèle is the one who responded. Tony has a hard time expressing his love and in the rare occasions he tries to overcome this flaw, Angèle usually pushes him away. Anyway, Tony is somewhat happy that there’s a new face in the house and Angèle doesn’t wait long and tells everyone she is about to get married. After all, a wedding document helps her getting back her parental control.

Of course, Angèle’s hiding her personality behind layers of armour in combination with the grumpy stubbornness of the fisherman may be standing in the way of a marriage, so whether the wedding bells will eventually toll is something that’s hard to predict. Well, probably not: every fibre in the movie points towards a happy end of some sorts… and some sorts it is, a genuine “Hurrah for Hollywood” happy end wouldn’t fit the movie, so we’re having none of that.

Stylistically, the film – the debut feature by Alix Delaporte – observes the couple from a distance, adequately reflecting the distant nature of the protagonists. Likewise, the film shows Angèle overcoming her inner turmoil by using long shots of her riding around on her stolen bicyle. Some say this takes the pace out of the film, but I don’t agree: for me it shows how Angèle copes with the situation. No long interior monologues only a voice-over could deal with, but brainless peddling on a bike through kilometres of hardly inhabited land. Here a comparison with a Dardennes movie springs to mind. If you ever wondered how Rosetta (of the eponymous movie) would look nowadays, Angèle et Tony offers a more than valid possibility.

Rosetta, Naked, Raining Stones… I’ve likened Angèle et Tony to some social masterpieces, haven’t I? To say this film can proudly stand between those would be lying. Especially in the early scenes I felt a fast forward button could be a handy tool in a movie theatre, but at least the film is not mimicking these masterpieces, but offering a slice of real life and the brilliant movies just spring to mind. And the director shouldn’t feel too awful: even the Dardennes haven’t been able to equal the 10/10 that I awarded to Rosetta. Seven out of ten means your film is good and that is what Angèle and Tony is.

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