Romantics Anonymous (Les émotifs anonymes, 2011)

Angélique (Isabelle Carré), a hapless but talented confectionist forced to hide behind a secret identity as a result of her life-long battle with bashfulness, is mistakenly hired as a sales representative by an ailing chocolate factory run by the equally insecure Jean-René Van Den Hugde (Benoît Poelvoorde). With his therapist giving him tasks designed to help him overcome his fear of intimacy, which Jean-René puts into practice by asking his new employee out for dinner, the two strike up a friendship which must battle the odds – and a long list of idiosyncrasies – if it is to develop into something more, much to the delight of Angélique’s self-help group, les émotifs anonymes.

Given the cinematic history of master chocolatiers, it appears that you must either be a strictly sensual sultress or rattled recluse if you are to ever truly hone your craft. Welcomingly, the stars of writer-director Jean-Pierre Améris’ Romantics Anonymous owe more to Willy Wonka than the more assured suitors of 2000’s Chocolat, their product’s natural aphrodisiac qualities proving not quite enough to compensate for their own, crushing coyness.

With Hollywood busy sexualising everything from guns to ghosts, Améris’ tale of awkward interaction endeavours to tell it as it is; painting a picture of romance and relationships that is as charmingly absurd as it is face-scrunchingly cringeworthy. Carré and Poelvoorde excel as the delightfully clumsy central couple, diverging from the school of Deschanel with a pair of performances that are as full of character as they are of quirk. As they fumble an informal first date, Angélique taking talking points from a set of cue cards and Jean-René resorting to regular toilet-breaks in order to change his sweat-stained shirt, it is impossible to resist the appeal of such disadvantaged chemistry.

While Romantics Anonymous is sprinkled with ingenuity, however – Angélique’s tendency to faint when anxious might be clichéd but is executed with such sympathy that it is never unwelcome – it is not enough to truly satisfy. Light, whimsical and desperately uneven, the film refuses to commit to a single, defining tone, robbing its romance of any real resonance. While the characters – of which there are only really two – might be likeable enough, the inevitable outcome is so predictably (and jarringly) conventional that it undermines the budding couple’s constrained but convergent plights.  That said, for its brusque running time, Améris’ film is entertaining and inoffensive enough.

A romantic comedy written and directed by an actual, practising human being, Romantics Anonymous is a perfectly palatable, pithy and genuinely charming slice of confection. Slight enough to delight without leaving you doubled over and nauseous, this French fancy will leave you unfulfilled but still very much wanting more.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to Romantics Anonymous (Les émotifs anonymes, 2011)

  1. Nostra says:

    One to watch if you are in the mood for something light hearted then….hadn’t heard of this before…

  2. Pingback: December 2011 – I Agree It’s Not My Best Disguise. « popcornaddict

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