Angel And Tony

Angel And Tony


Reviewed by: David Graham

Debut writer/director Alix Delaporte offers an unconventional love story that should see her garner considerable admiration for her unfussy, naturalistic style. The film seems like many European art-house dramas on the surface but it distinguishes itself by being deceptively simple and considered, never pushing the audience's buttons too much and always favoring character development over action.

Angele is an ex-con who hasn't quite managed to give up prostitution; we meet her mid-encounter in a public parking lot, and follow her to a nearby cafe to meet her next trick. She's just about to give up on the arrangement when in walks Tony, an unassuming every-man whose quiet way and relative indifference strikes a chord with his would-be whore. Post unfulfilled proposition, she follows him to his sleepy fishing village, perhaps disappointed that he didn't seem too bothered not to get what he paid for. As she ingratiates herself into his family and community, an awkward courtship begins, defying the judgement of all around them. Their relationship is tested by both Angele's checkered past and Tony's emotional resistance, but their burgeoning attachment to one another may just prove strong enough to finally bring a sense of worth to their lives.

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Angele is seen literally waiting for her ship to come in, but this is not a metaphor you could apply to the character; it's through sheer force of will that she forges her own path. This makes her a thoroughly sympathetic character; her determination to make good of herself translates to our desire to see her achieve this. Tony's quiet strength anchors his attempts to offer solace to his new charge; we never doubt his intentions, and implicitly understand his hesitance to jump straight into a meaningless sexual relationship. That they make such a fascinating pair is down to Delaporte's spare but beautifully observed script, and the brilliantly understated performances by Clotilde Hesme and Gregory Gadebois. They keep us fully invested in a pretty threadbare story through their commitment to the roles and their ability to convey deep wells of feeling through subtle expression.

There are several important supporting characters who help us understand how Angele and Tony have ended up this way; her parole officer's developing empathy tells us all we need to know about what has happened in her past, while Tony's molly-coddling mother and more socially-minded brother highlight how he has ended up such an insular being. The search for Tony's father's corpse accentuates the difference between him and his brother Ryan; Tony is despondently realistic while Ryan is fiercely idealistic. Tony is content to just keep going whereas Ryan won't settle for anything less than resolution, but through Angele's presence, he starts to realize that he has actually been avoiding the things that should be important to him.

Heartbreaking eruptions of physical violence - towards themselves and each other - speak volumes about the depths of the main characters' despair and hurt; they're lonely souls trying their utmost not to let the uncaring world and nicely unspecified problems from the past break them. As Angele starts to immerse herself in the fishing community, Tony starts to hesitantly open up to her. Her acceptance among the locals is less about her personality (she gives very little of that away), it's more about their generosity and instinctive feeling for someone who's clearly damaged. Scenes involving her efforts to reconnect with her son are especially stirring, culminating in a mature realization that's heartbreaking to witness.

To say how Angele Et Tony ends would rob it of some of the considerable tension it builds up through our investment in this relationship. Delaporte manages through accumulation of fine detail to immerse us in this unlikely romance, representing a stark contrast to overblown Hollywood examples of the genre. There will no doubt be some who are thoroughly underwhelmed by the film's leisurely pace and superficially uneventful plot, but if you give these characters a chance to get under your skin, you'll find yourself wholeheartedly hoping for their peculiarly low-key love story to end on a happy note.

Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2011
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A touching portrayal of love against the odds.
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Director: Alix Delaporte

Starring: Clotilde Hesme, Grégory Gadebois, Evelyne Didi, Jérôme Huguet, Antoine Couleau, Patrick Descamps, Lola Dueñas

Year: 2010

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: France


EIFF 2011
French 2011

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