Tout le Monde Aime Jeanne is in some respects a very conventional movie. It follows all the rom-com clichés of a single woman having to decide between various men, with the probability that she will end up with the man who initially seemed least suitable for her.
However, this would not do justice to the way in which rather darker themes like solitude, mental health and grief are treated in the film, nor to the many original touches that director Céline Devaux brings to the movie nor indeed to the charming central performances of Blanche Gardin and Laurent Lafitte.
It certainly marks quite a debut for Devaux. Not only is this her first feature-length movie, but she also wrote the screenplay and drew all the animated illustrations that pop up regularly during the film to represent the inner thoughts and doubts of Jeanne (played by Gardin).
Gardin, who is best known in France for her stand-up comedy, is a revelation in the role (astonishingly, this is the first time she has played the lead in a movie). After the disastrous failure of her socially conscious and climate-aware engineering company, Jeanne travels to Lisbon to sort out her mother’s apartment a full year after she passed away. Having watched the persona that Gardin assumes in many of her stand-up routines (self-deprecating and single), I would guess that Devaux wrote the part with Gardin already in mind. The subtlety and charm of her performance alone make this film well worth watching.
Lafitte shows exquisite comic timing and interacts very naturally with Gardin in his role as the rather feckless Jean, who recognizes Jeanne at the airport before they board the same flight from Paris to Lisbon. He seems far more interested in her than she is in him.
Nuno Lopes, as Jeanne’s Portuguese love interest, and Maxence Tual in the role of Jeanne’s brother, who shows up later to help her clear out their mother’s apartment, both provide strong support to the central actors.
As impressive as the performances are, it is a difficult juggling act to combine comedy with poignancy, and the mixture does not always come off in Tout le Monde Aime Jeanne. Jeanne’s animated inner voices are amusing throughout, but at times they tend to undermine rather than enhance the seriousness of the central themes, occasionally giving the movie a lightweight feel.
Also, although this might seem like an unnecessary gripe, all three main male characters had heavy beards that made them seem almost interchangeable. It would surely have made sense, especially with the two romantic interests, to make them more distinctive.
Misgivings apart, this is a movie that will keep you interested and entertained. Above all, Blanche Gardin’s beautiful performance will surely make her hot property for other directors.Favorite