28 February, 2012

AJFF: "The Day I Saw Your Heart" (****)

Melanie Laurent stars in "The Day I Saw Your Heart"

I should start my review of "The Day I Saw Your Heart" with a warning: Do not watch this film, unless you are prepared to fall in love, or more deeply in love, with Mélanie Laurent. The stunning French ingenue is as captivating here as she was in "Inglourious Basterds" and even more charming than we saw her in "Paris" and "Beginners." Without discounting the rest of the cast, the movie truly belongs to Laurent's Justine.

Expecting an airy romantic comedy, I was caught by surprise with how dense and thoughtful this film was. Director Jennifer Devoldère packs "The Day I Saw Your Heart" full of details, both in subplot and character intricacies, elevating the story above what it would have been otherwise.

While the film still feels a bit frothy, a great deal of depth is revealed as it progresses. By the end, several themes are fully realized and neatly tied together. I can particularly appreciate the film's Starbucks subplot, after spending several years with the company myself. Michel Blanc, as Justine's father, is an archetypical French Woody Allen. You can't help but love him, despite the undeniable fact that he makes everyone's life more difficult.

There are some solid technical achievements in the film as well. The photography isn't particularly artful, but there are a few notable moments. One scene, with the family sitting around the dinner table, demonstrates some fantastic rotating camerawork. Also, a nice collection of music features throughout the film, including many American songs, and contributes to the film's polished and cosmopolitan feel.

Both the film's titles, the English title: "The Day I Saw Your Heart" and the original French title: "Et soudain, tout le monde me manque" (translated as "And suddenly, I miss everyone"), are meaningful and completely appropriate to represent the film. The audience at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival was mostly women, and the response seemed overwhelmingly positive (could be another contender for the Audience Award).

"The Day I Saw Your Heart" is exactly as the title suggests. A heartfelt and poignant French import, this film is easy to love.

4 out of 5 stars.

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