It’s long been known that, when it comes to romantic comedy, France has some of the best films cinema has to offer. From quirky sun-soaked romances to crowd-pleasing Academy Award-winning hits, filmmakers across the pond have for decades known how to speak the language of love like no others.
The latest rom-com to come out of France is Up For Love, which stars Jean Dujardin and Virginie Efira and hits UK cinemas Friday August 5. As humorous as it is unconventional, the film combines excellent performances with a story whose moral messages have universal appeal.
To celebrate the film’s release, we’ve lovingly gone back through the recent decades to list ten of the very best romantic comedies France has to offer.
Up For Love – 2016
Diane (Virginie Efira) is brilliant, beautiful, witty… and a formidable lawyer. She’s just put an end to a toxic, unhappy marriage and is finally considering the idea of meeting someone new. A series of fateful events lead Diane to receive a phone call from the mysterious Alexandre (Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin), who has found her lost mobile phone. Courteous, funny, and effortlessly charming, he soon wins Diane over… and before she knows it, she’s agreed to a date. But their first meeting is not quite what either of them expected… This charming, quirky and feel-good comedy puts a spin on the classic love story elements, with standout performances from Dujardin and Efira.
Gemma Bovery – 2015
Anne Fontaine’s adaptation of Posy Simmonds’ 1999 graphic novel puts a twist on Gustave Flaubert’s classic literary masterpiece, Madame Bovary. When Gemma Bovary (Gemma Arterton) moves to the picturesque Normandy with her new husband Charles (Jason Flemyng), she gets more than she bargained for when it comes to her intrusive neighbours. Martin (Fabrice Luchini), an ex-Parisian with a deep love for Flaubert, engages with the young couple, observing Gemma’s behaviour and telling her that she’s headed for a tragic finale like the character in the novel. Gemma Bovery is a watchable, funny comedy with heartwarming performances by Arterton and Luchini.
Chinese Puzzle – 2014
Cédric Klapisch’s L’Auberge Espagnole trilogy that introduced us to a cast of twentysomethings doing a studentship in Brussels, comes to a close with the 2014 film Chinese Puzzle. Picking up from the last instalment Russian Dolls (2005), Xavier (Romain Duris) is now divorced from Wendy (Kelly Reilly). But when she takes their children to move to New York, he decides to follow her, convincing himself that it’s the right thing to do to be close to his kids. But in a twist, Xavier’s ex-girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou) shows up in New York, leading to them rekindling their romance. Klapisch neatly rounds off his trilogy with a freewheeling, witty dramedy.
Love Is in the Air – 2013
From writer-director Alexandre Castagnetti, this modern rom-com pits Ludivine Sagnier against Populaire star Nicolas Bedos, making for a match made thousands of miles in the air. Bedos plays Antoine, a New York-based lawyer who, whilst on a flight to France ahead of a job interview, finds himself sitting next to his ex-girlfriend Julie (Sagnier). The pair’s previously messy break-up ensures that this seven-hour flight proves to be quite eventful…
Populaire – 2012
The directorial debut from Régis Roinsard, this screwball period rom-com, set in late 1950a France, sees Déborah François playing Rose, a secretary at an insurance agency who is terrible at her job but an incredibly fast typewriter. When her talents are noticed by her handsome boss, Louis (Romain Duris), he takes it upon himself to train and transform her into the fastest typist in the world. He makes a bet with his friend that Rose can win the regional championship, but will their budding feelings for one another scupper her chance at success?
The Artist – 2011
Michel Hazanavicius’ modern hit sits firmly in the category for being one of the best films of all time. The Artist scooped up all the major awards, and won five Oscars including best film, director and actor for Jean Dujardin, the first French star to do so. The story takes place in 1920’s Hollywood, focusing on the relationship of an older silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and rising young actress Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). As the era of silent cinema takes its bow, Valentin fears of being replaced by the ‘talkies’. The film’s beautiful cinematography coupled with the shining performances by Dujardin and Bejo make it an instant stand-out classic.
Heartbreaker – 2010
Romain Duris plays Alex Lippi, the lynchpin of a business hired to drive a wedge between unsuitable couples, deploying his seductive charm to help women see the flaws in their relationships. His next assignment is Juliette (Vanessa Paradis), a strong-minded businesswoman who’s about to marry a charming, wealthy English philanthropist (Andrew Lincoln). Heartbreaker is smart, well-acted (with a stand-out performance from Paradis) film that thinks fast on its feet until the end.
Romantics Anonymous – 2010
From Jean-Pierre Améris, this gentle romantic comedy weaves together love and chocolate into a charming, feel-good confection. Benoît Poelvoorde plays Jean-René Van Den Hugde, the boss of a small chocolate factory who falls in love with Angélique (Isabelle Carré), the talented chocolate maker he’s recently hired. All would be straightforward if it weren’t for the fact that both individuals are extremely shy, making for a delightful will-they won’t-they story that puts a sweet spin on an age-old story.
Beautiful Lies – 2010
A staple of French cinema, Audrey Tautou stars in Pierre Salvadori’s playful film about Émilie (played by Tautou), the co-owner of a hair salon who receives an anonymous love letter from her handyman Jean (Sami Bouajila) who, unbeknownst to her, is actually a highly educated man. Thinking it will rouse her from a deep depression, Émilie forwards this letter to her mother (Nathalie Baye), and she is immediately smitten, though complications arrive when her daughter becomes the middleman in the pair’s burgeoning romance.
Amélie – 2001
The BAFTA-award winning Amelie was an instant hit, and became one of the most well known French films of this decade. It stars Audrey Tautou as Amélie Poulain, a shy waitress struggling with isolation, who finds bliss by devoting her life to the people around her. She resorts her own life to her own fantastical world and dreams of love and beauty. But in doing so, Amélie begins to leave behind her own life and her own quest for love. This French classic is a feel-good charmer that showcases Tautou as a delightful heroine, and introduced her to a wider international audience.
Up For Love is released in UK cinemas August 5