LA BELLE ÉPOQUE gets 5.5/10 Trip down memory lane

Directed by Nicolas Bedos

Starring Daniel Auteuil, Fanny Ardant, Guillaume Canet, Doria Tiller


With such a unique and bold concept for a romantic comedy, it’s a shame that La Belle Époque doesn’t utilise it to its worthy potential. It takes a grand idea that should be used to elicit some raw emotions of the regret and nostalgia for a love that’s now long lost, but it ends up being too infatuated with its own premise to dig deep into one man’s history of love.

Viktor (Daniel Auteuil) and Marianne (Fanny Ardant) are an elderly married couple, though as soon as we’re introduced to them, she’s throwing him out of the house. This marriage break-up is so casually presented and with so very little emotional response, you’d think this is a regular occurrence for them. Whether it is or not, we get little understanding of their current romantic state, and nor is it unravelled through the film’s concept, which ought to be explorative.

Seemingly faced with a lonely future, Viktor uses what little money he has to sign up for a trip down memory lane – that is, have his past (the 1970s) reconstructed and acted out for him to live again in, specifically the moments when he met Marianne for the first time and they fell in love, her younger self played by actress Margot (Doria Tiller). This is part of the StarNet service, run and directed by Antoine (Guillaume Canet), who has his own hardly appealing (and very hot and cold) relationship with the budding young Margot.

This high-concept idea for a romantic comedy is brilliant, mixing the present of the old and the past of the youth to touch upon nostalgia, regret, and first love. But where La Belle Époque succeeds with such a witty and out-there idea, it fails in allowing this fun idea to explore a worthwhile relationship. The romance between Victor and Marianne is glimpsed at from too much of an outside perspective, and the romance between Antoine and Margot is likewise aggravatingly conflicted from seemingly very little.

This just may be a foreign film that could actually excel from an English-language remake – to repurpose this fun and intriguing concept with much better execution. With a fantastical near future idea that’s reminiscent of Black Mirror and Synecdoche, New York, this film could benefit from having its own past rewritten.


La Belle Époque plays at UWA Somerville from Monday, January 6 – Sunday, January 12, 8pm.

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