Delicacy is a film made with a delicate touch looking at the sadness and sweetness of a life lived with and without a real love. Audrey Tautou plays Nathalie; a woman who shares the type of true love with husband François (Pio Marmaï) that does not require any fanfare to understand what it is they both share. The film is noteworthy in how it moves through dramatic moments via quietness which makes the events, such as Nathalie becoming a young widow all the more memorable and profound.
Tautou is perfect casting. Her ability to express emotion with stillness or with the smallest of gestures is aided by her own physically delicate looking frame, perfectly reflecting Nathalie’s fragility and inner emotional state throughout the film. With François – possibly the loveliest of husbands to ever be portrayed in film – no longer with her, Nathalie buries her emotional self in work. A nice quirk of the film is that what Nathalie actually does is never stated but it does include cases that go all the way up and passed the significant case number 114.
Nathalie works for a Swedish company surrounded by Swedish practicality and with a French boss Charles (Bruno Todeschini) who has been hopefully grooming her for a very French type of affair since her first interview for her job. Instead, Nathalie finds herself unconsciously drawn to her co-worker, Swedish Markus (François Damiens). Both we the audience and Nathalie barely notice Markus though he has been in plain sight during the film and during her working life. Dressed head to toe in beige, Markus seems to come out of the (beige) office wood work to open Nathalie up to a life beyond work and her grief. Damiens’ Markus, though easily written off as an awkward, somewhat dull accountant type, is imbued with a deeply established brand of lovely charm and self-worth that can even make the perpetual wearing of beige seem like strength, not an unimaginative weakness.
Costume designer Emmanuelle Youchnovski has put together a capsule assemble for Tautou that would make most women ache to replicate it in their own wardrobe. We see Nathalie evolve over the years through subtle changes in her hair and clothing with plain Markus making her look like an exotic bird. The directing brothers Foenkinos keeps these time, costume and emotional changes subtle but in plain sight to both direct and misdirect the audience as to where the possible relationship between Nathalie and Markus might lead.
The Foenkinos create a final scene that is choreographed to perfection and will simultaneously bring a smile and a tear to one’s eye. With a supporting cast that brings out the comedic and friendship elements of the film, notably Nathalie’s co-working Chloé (Mélanie Bernier) and friend Sophie (Joséphaine de Meaux), Delicacy cleverly negotiates the fine line between bittersweet delight and sickly sweet rom-com.