A Very Long Engagement

2004

A Very Long Engagement

Critics Consensus

A well-crafted and visually arresting drama with a touch of whimsy.

78%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 148

85%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 65,369
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A Very Long Engagement Photos

Movie Info

Audrey Tautou, who rose to international stardom with the title role in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's worldwide smash Amà (C)lie, reunites with the director for this drama, set during the darkest days of World War I and its immediate aftermath. Mathilde (Tautou) is a pretty but frail young women who was left with a bad leg after a childhood bout with polio. Mathilde lives in a small French village with her Aunt Bà (C)nà (C)dicte (Chantal Neuwirth) and Uncle Sylvain (Dominique Pinon), and is engaged to marry Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), the son of a lighthouse keeper who is fighting with the army near the German front. Manech is one of five soldiers who have been accused of injuring themselves in order to be sent home; in order to discourage similar behavior among their comrades, Manech and the other soldiers are sentenced to death, and the condemned men are marched into the no man's land between the French and German lines, where they are certain to be killed. Mathilde receives word of Manech's death, but in her heart she believes that if the man she loved had been killed, she would know it and feel it. Convinced he's still alive somewhere, Mathilde hires a private detective (Ticky Holgado) shortly after the end of the war, and together they set out to find the missing Manech. Jodie Foster appears in a supporting role as a Polish expatriate living in France. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Cast

Audrey Tautou
as Mathilde
Jean-Pierre Becker
as Lieutenant Esperanza
Dominique Bettenfeld
as Ange Bassignano
Clovis Cornillac
as Benoit Notre Dame
Marion Cotillard
as Tina Lombardi
Jean-Pierre Darroussin
as Benjamin Gordes
Jodie Foster
as Elodie Gordes
Julie Depardieu
as Véronique Passavant
Jean-Claude Dreyfus
as Commandant Lavrouye
Albert Dupontel
as Celestin Poux
Ticky Holgado
as Germain Pire
Tcheky Karyo
as Captain Favourier
Denis Lavant
as Six-Soux
Chantal Neuwirth
as Bénédicte
Jean-Paul Rouve
as The Postman
Rufus
as A Breton
Michel Chalmeau
as The Priest of Milly
Rodolphe Pauly
as Jean Desrochelles
Xavier Maly
as Chardolot's Friend
Myriam Roustan
as The Cafe Prostitute
Thierry Gibault
as Lieutenant Estrangin
Sandrine Rigaud
as Mariette Notre Dame
Marc Faure
as The Prison Director
Gilles Masson
as The Murdered Officer
Till Bahlmann
as German Prisoner
Tony Gaultier
as Gravedigger
Marc Robert
as Soldier
Pierre Heitz
as Soldier
Eric Fraticelli
as Menacing Corsican
Philippe Beautier
as Joker On The Train
Gérald Weingand
as Conned Solider
Luc Songzoni
as Conned Soldier
Marcel Philippot
as Bourgeois Couple
Pascale Lievyn
as Bourgeois Couple
Jean-Claude Lecoq
as German Machine Gunner
Frédérique Bel
as Prostitute
Alexandre Caumartin
as Stretcher Bearer
Eric Defosse
as Stretcher Bearer
Gaspar Claus
as Stabbed German
Jean Philippe Beche
as Geroges Cornu
Anaïs Durand
as Hélène Prie
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News & Interviews for A Very Long Engagement

Critic Reviews for A Very Long Engagement

All Critics (148) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (116) | Rotten (32)

Audience Reviews for A Very Long Engagement

  • May 18, 2013
    It's the director of "Alien Resurrection" teaming up with the guy who would go on to play a young Hannibal Lecter, so this is bound to be either one hardcore thriller or, you know, actually tolerable. Granted, I thought "Hannibal Rising" was alright, but when it comes to "Alien Resurrection", sorry, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, but I'm not forgetting that, as surely as I'm not forgetting Audrey Tautou for her not so fashionable debut to American films. "The Da Vinci Code" was painfully long enough, so if this affair is going to be very long for Tatou's tastes, then it better be good. Well, sure enough, it's certainly much better than "The Da Vinci Code", and if you for some reason think that placing this arty French much further ahead than a commercial American film makes me sound a bit snooty, come on, the only other film that I've seen with the apparently famous Audrey Tatou is her only American one, so I'm one of those handful of critics who like to keep things domestic, unless of course the domestic film stinks. After seeing this film with "The Da Vinci Code" and Jeunet's only American film in my head, I guess it's safe to say that this film proves that it's nice to watch the occasional good foreign flick, or at least that Jodie Foster is still hunting Hannibal Lecter, because this film also stars Gaspard Ulliel, and features a small appearance by Foster, ostensibly intending to either apprehend Lecter or to show that her French accent is decidedly better than her southern accent. Man, speaking of very long engagements, this opener is starting to wander out of entertainment value, kind of like this film does at times. No, the film entertains just fine, and certainly rewards by the end, yet the fact of the matter is that not all goes terribly smoothly in this affair. You know, as much as they call it very long, this engagement doesn't really seem long enough, or at least it doesn't at times, as the film will spend more than a few occasions glossing over exposition, typically through narrated montages of happenings that get kind of repetitious after a while, before making a sudden slow-down that is generally comfortably paced, but all too often descends into a borderline limpness that may never be dull, per se, but certainly bland things up. The film is adequately entertaining, like I said earlier, but when it slow down, it throws you off, and not just because slow spells bookend a bit of unevenness in pacing, whose inconsistency still isn't as awkward as the occasions of inconsistency within tone. With this film, I have now only seen two Jean-Pierre Jeunet films, so I can only assume that he does this often, but one of the things that I absolutely hated the most about the disaster that was "Alien Resurrection" was it's being so actively over-the-top in its embrassingly unfitting and fall-flat tongue-in-cheek attitude, and while such cornball whimsy isn't as grating in this film as it could have been, it's much more prevalent than it should be, tainting conceptually consistently serious subject matter with many a moment of silliness that doesn't fit and, more often than not, doesn't even hit by its own right, serving only to throw off dramatic momentum that is hurt enough by cheesiness' also finding its way into the drama at times. I feared that French romantic dramatastic histrionics would work its way into this affair at points, and sure enough, not all is completely genuine in this film's dramatic depth, which is generally effective, but sometimes takes on distancing melodrama that would be easier to forgive if it wasn't for its familiarity. The film is kind of formulaic, and I guess there's no way around that, because subject matter of this type, while worthy, has been too done to death for all that much uniqueness to take place, no matter how much this film tries, yet conventionalism leaves you to step back and meditate upon this film's handful of distinguishing factors, including the not so flattering ones, from uneven areas to overambition that leave the final product to fall short of its potential. Of course, as shaky as this affair is, you remain engaged through and through (Pun oh so very much intended), unable to ignore shortcomings, but even less able to ignore strengths, even when it comes to production value. Again, I haven't seen too much from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, but what handful I have seen of Jeunet's tastes show me that the man knows production value, as this film further proves through intricate production designs by Aline Bonetto that bring early 20th century Europe, inside and outside of the warzone, to lush life that, when accompanied by Madeline Fontaine's fine costume designs, sell you on the era, while the soul of this film owes a large part of its being so effectively sold at times to Angelo Badalamenti's score, which is formuliac, but powerful, with a rich range that dances between hauntingly deep to wonderfully sweeping, but nevertheless keeps consistent in loveliness. The film's musical artistry is outstanding, both by its own right and as a compliment to the film's tasteful heart, but at the end of the day, it's the film's visual artistry that truly stands out, as the great Bruno Delbonnel delivers on cinematography that is not only framed in a fashion that gives you a fine feel for both the sweep and intimacy of this mini-epic, but a highly distinct greenish orange, almost gold color palette whose lushness has to be seen in order to be believed, gracing every shot with profound, painting-like spectacle that takes your breath away time and again, and is among the things most worthy of appreciation in the final product. Boasting richly thoughtful production value, arrestingly tasteful musical and photographic value, and, yes, even exceptional technical value that puts anything from strong visual effects to thumping sound design to immersively good use, particularly during the typically tense war sequences, this film is nothing if not well-crafted when it comes to aesthetics, and accels exceedingly stylistically, though not so much so that the final product forgets its substance. Sure, whether it is because other standard differences or whatever, the film's style is stronger than its storytelling, but there's no ignoring the many moments in which Jean-Pierre Jeunet settles down all of the silliness and unevenness to deliver on effective resonance to break up a consistently fair degree of inspiration that gives you a compellingly decent feel for the value within this worthy, if formulaic story concept. The film is rarely, if ever truly movingly powerful, but where Jeunet could have overstepped pacing issues, dramatic shortcomings or simply awkward ambition, to the point of sparking underwhelmingness, he finds himself with enough control of resonance to engross more often than not, with no light help from a cast that is just as inspired. The acting isn't exactly killer on the whole, but most everyone has his or her time to shine, whether it be such supporting players as the particularly effective Marion Cotillard as a vengeful woman, or leading lady Audrey Tautou, whose subtly human and engagingly convincing portrayal of a woman seeking out the lost love of her life whose fate is in question. I wish I could say that the final product is, on the whole, as strong as it could have been, or at least as strong as it wants to be, but no matter how much this ambitious effort slips up, it accels enough, both stylistically and dramatically, to thoroughly engage, occasionally move and ultimately reward. To end this engagement, pacing unevenness creates slightly slapdashed moments and blad slow spells, while tonal unevenness creates moments of whimsy silliness that doesn't work, joining histrionics and conventionalism in shaking the dramatic foundation that is left too tattered to be as firm as it could have been, but not so tattered that exceptional production value, powerful score work, stunning cinematography and a compelling story - brought to life by Jean-Pierre Jeunet's sometimes very effective direction and a collection of inspired performances - are obscured as the engaging strengths that go into making "A Very Long Engagement" a flawed, but ultimately rewarding drama. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jan 24, 2012
    An engaging and emotional film, which sweeps you into the world of its characters, and has striking cinematography. In fact the visuals are the best thing about the film. It's a visual powerhouse of a film, mixing gritty visual conventions of the war genre with scenes of a more romantic visual style, both are done brilliantly. The Story and Characters are both interesting, and injected with a healthy amount of wit and humour. The writer has managed to perfectly blend various genres, devoting enough viewing time to each. The acting is a mixture of some performance which are almost cartoonishly ridiculous, and some which create deep 3D characters. This film is a brilliant blend of sad realism and enchanting fantasy. It creates its own world and characters, while at the same time reflecting ours. A bittersweet ending just adds to this theme. Is it worth watching? Yes it is. You're guaranteed an adventure of mixed emotions, and the challenge that the main character faces will keep you engaged and stop you from getting bored.
    Joel K Super Reviewer
  • Dec 15, 2011
    Really good movie, but it's really bogged down by an incredibly jumbled story with too many unnecessary subplots. There's a good basic story here about this woman who refuses to give up on the man she loves and that was good enough to carry the movie. But there had to be this complex (and not in a good way) plot that just didn't work at all in this movie. Again, it's still really good and it has Jean Pierre Jeunet's visual and eccentric charm, but it's reigned in from his other movies. And the acting is strong. But its pretentious approach to a complex story keeps this movie from truly being great.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Apr 16, 2011
    Indeed a very long and tedious engagement. In fact, it didn't engage me, but on the contrary, it began to bore me after a while. Simply not my cup of tea. Recommended for public in general, though.
    familiar s Super Reviewer

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