Perfumes

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Perfumes
"There's a gentle feel-good sweep to Grégory Magne's French dramedy, which though it is built of familiar elements, remains a very watchable blend."

There's a gentle feel-good sweep to Grégory Magne's French dramedy, which though it is built of familiar elements, remains a very watchable blend thanks to stars Emmanuelle Devos and Grégory Montel.

Montel plays slightly hapless chauffeur Guillaume Favre, riding his luck with his employer after picking up points on his driving licence and desperate to get the cash together to move into a bigger apartment so that he can share custody of his nine-year-old daughter Léa (Zélie Rixhon). Devos, meanwhile, is his latest client, Anne Walberg, an aloof sort who once worked as a perfumier's "nose" but now finds herself creating scents for shops and factories for reasons that aren't revealed until deep in the runtime.

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There's no doubt we've been here before, as initial friction between Guilliame and Anne begins to shift, her coolness warming in the face of his refusal to simply back down to her demands. Magne isn't looking for the usual commentary on class or 'opposites', however, instead taking his lead from his perfumes theme to consider how personalities can mix to produce a more interesting result than each would achieve on their own. Guillaume is certainly helping Anne to loosen up and notice the world around her more but she is also offering him a sounding board and, gradually, an opportunity to think about his world and what he is offering his daughter differently.

This is a mostly quiet film, which spends a lot less time dwelling on the various scents than you might imagine - the art of mixing them is celebrated but Magne uses interactions about the various smells to flesh out his characters rather than to try to conjure up imagined fragrances for the audience. Scenes between Guillaume and Léa bring an energy that acts as a counterpoint for the more contemplative relationship between he and Anne - although the use of a pop song in a scene at the beach feels jammed in to make sure it feels 'crowd-pleasing' even though it would achieve that without.

The desire to emphasise the film's more comedic elements comes at the expense of its emotional heft, especially towards the end, which feels hurried compared to what has gone before. The always reliable Sergi López also injects interesting chemistry in a small role newar the film's conclusion that, like several plot elements here, would have benefited from more exploration.

Reviewed on: 22 Aug 2020
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Perfumes packshot
A friendship begins to blossom between a stressed chauffeur and his aloof client.

Festivals:

EIFF 2020

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