Released in cinemas 31st May 2013.
This super-stylish French retro rom-com boasts a dazzling turn from acclaimed Belgian actress Déborah François, and with a big UK push for the film, it should make her an international star.
As gorgeous and colourful as Régis Roinsard’s Fifties-set film is, the fluffy silliness sits uncomfortably alongside some half-hearted, ham-fisted attempts at commentary of the feminism of the period. François is Rose, whose shop-owning family have promised her in marriage to the local mechanic. However, Rose wants to follow in the footsteps of every young woman of the period and become a secretary. Rose’s unusually fast one-fingered typing gets the attention of insurance salesman Louis (Romain Duris), who hires the gauche Rose over the more experienced applicants and enters her into a speed-typing championship.
It’s a daft premise, and the film walks the dangerous line between the sickeningly twee and the delightfully charming. Thanks to François’ appeal and star quality, the journey of this woman as she negotiates life outside of what is expected of her is hugely enjoyable. Also, typing has never been so exciting thanks to some fantastic pomp and circumstance surrounding the deadly serious competition.
However, Populaire feels terribly old-fashioned with its sexual politics. The inevitable love affair between the stern, domineering, lonely Louis and the child-like, naïve Rose feels off when it throws a dramatic spanner in the works regarding the mentorship. There’s also an uninvolving subplot which criminally squanders the fabulous star of The Artist, Bérénice Bejo.
As a period piece, it’s a winner, with divine costume and production design, and lush photography. It’s such a shame this endearing and quirky film goes down such a predictable and staid path when it comes to romance.