You know how sometimes you’re in the mood for something sweet but Gallic? Lots of subtitles with the occasional – oddly disappointing – bit of English? A love story about distance and constructed fantasies, disappointment and acting on hope? With a dazed American and heartbreakingly unreachable Mélanie Laurent?
Let me introduce you to the rather splendid Every Jack has a Jill. Or, as it was significantly better titled for literate Europeans, Jusqu’à toi – ‘until you’.
It is the sad tale of a dumped American boy using the ticket to Paris that could have saved his relationship, losing his suitcase and getting stuck in an hotel with pissy French folk because that suitcase had everything he needed to exist in it.
It is the fantastic, flighty tale of the finder of said suitcase: Mélanie Laurent as Chloe. A cowardly journalist, she digs through the suitcase and constructs her dream man from the bits inside. Clothing, bits and bobs (slides past the in-sole sniffing…) and – most importantly – a book. For in reading the book loved by the woman you should love rests the salvation of every good man.
It is the tale of them finding one another.
Now, Justin Bartha – Jack – tootles about making enemies of the cleaner and receptionist before ultimately giving up. There’s a lovely comedy to these scenes, almost entirely delivered by the wonderfully petty and Frenchily vengeful Maurice Bénichou.
Bartha is also befriended by a Cornish family stuck in their own ghastly sulk…and, like Bénichou, Andrew Greenough as Pat the Dad, brings alive the scenes against the blank Bartha.
Back in the USA, the entertaining-on-site Billy Boyd does much the same as Jack’s edgy, energising buddy Rufus. All push Jack without actually slapping him, which is heroic in its own way. Let’s just say that Bartha either got some really bad news just as he went to drama school, or he decided to keep Jack as shocked as possible by the break-up and subsequent Frenchness of his world.
Now, much like in my dreams, Mélanie Laurent uses Jack’s camera to take a ton of photos of herself and on marches the plot as you’d expect. Jack prints them some time later and then goes searching for this dream girl…
Yes, the fates bring them into proximity.
Yes, the story goes the way you expect, only… oh no! The film and Chloe grow up – albeit without diverting from every writing academic’s Structure-1.01 course; ever ever.
The star is Laurent. She vests the story in a blanket of longing and bittersweetness. If you have a touch of the romantic in you, she’ll bring it out. She has her own comedy going on, and glides through it (and her boss’s advances…) deftly, then leaves her fantasies behind and gets real when it matters. She’s immensely watchable.
Old Jack here forgave Bartha for his blankness, given it let me project myself onto the love story with a quiet swagger and emotional intensity that beguiled the French lass. And that’s half the point of these romantic comedies, isn’t it? To keep us entertained whilst waiting for that one last love.
Jusqu’à toi – waiting tables, passing the time, making our mistakes…until you.
Give this film a go about eight months into a new relationship. Just as you’re sliding from energetic sex to promising cuddles, but long before reality TV is a solid option for passing the night away.
Or, try it when you’ve buried the wife.