Director Regis Roinsard’s feature film debut brings this, an utterly charming tale of love, resilience and triumph, showcasing the seamless appeal of modern French film-making with a quirky and accessible twist.
Set in France in the late 1950s, Populaire follows the story of a young woman striving for more than the humdrum inevitabilities her small home town provides by fulfilling the “dream” of the modern woman: becoming a secretary. Ultimately, her ambitions take her much further than even she could have hoped.
Populaire is completely aware of its own romantic clichés and comedic safety nets, allowing itself total freedom to gracefully flit between stylistic endeavour and engaging narrative. The film’s visual beauty is its piece de resistance, as every scene and character is modelled to the period without being excessively over-worked or losing aesthetic importance.
The unique storyline falls on the delicate shoulders of Belgian actress Deborah Francois, whose coy beauty and demure confidence shine throughout the film, complimented by the simmering charisma of Romain Duris. Their onscreen chemistry is palpable, making for captivating scenes of both humour and emotion, all beneath the glossy umbrella of the turn-of-the-decade fashion.
Roinsard manages to make the ostensibly mundane occupation of typewriting a tension-filled test of stamina (for both actor and viewer), most notable during scenes of competition, in which the director uses interesting camera shots accompanied by slow motion to create dynamic time sequences. The easy pit-falls of repetition are avoided, granting the story space to breathe, and accentuating the more touching moments in contrast.
With undertones of war, oppression and gender inequality, Populaire could easily have been overdone, becoming Hollywood fodder without the whimsical aplomb it so delightfully boasts. The final line of the film is cleverly cemented: “America for business, France for love.”
Populaire is released nationwide on 31st May 2013.
Watch the trailer for Populaire here: