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Audrey back on form in delightful comedy

La DElicatesse

(12A, general release, 108 minutes)

Director: Stephane Foenkinos Stars: Audrey Tautou, Francois Damiens, Pio Marmai

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Audrey Tautou has tested her fans' patience in recent years, giving shrill performances in vacuous romantic comedies like De Vrais Mensonges and Hors de Prix.

But she's back to her best in this delightful little drama that starts out as a conventional romantic comedy before taking a much more interesting turn.

Tautou is Nathalie, a rather self-possessed young woman who's blissfully in love with Francois (Pio Marmai).

They constantly revisit the cafe where they first met, have achieved genuine intimacy and are just contemplating having a child together when Francois goes for a jog and is run over by a truck.

Nathalie is devastated, and copes with her loss by burrowing deep into herself and burying herself in work. Her boss at her new job is infatuated with her and keeps asking her out, but Nathalie lets him know in no uncertain terms that funny business is out of the question. She can't imagine ever loving again, until she's inexplicably drawn to a geeky work subordinate called Markus.

Wonderfully played by Belgian actor Francois Damiens, Markus is a shy, awkward Swedish man who's losing his hair and is not especially handsome.

When Nathalie starts dating him her friends and colleagues are horrified, but fail to notice that he's actually perfect for her.

Nicely written and very funny, La Delicatesse gently assaults the modern obsession with the superficial, and points up the absurdity of ranking people in terms of physical perfection.

Tautou underplays her comedy nicely, and has -- perhaps paradoxically -- never looked more beautiful. And there's real pathos in Markus's feelings of physical inferiority.

At one point he tells Nathalie that "it's as if Liechtenstein were dating the USA".

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