wed 23/09/2020

Angel & Tony | reviews, news & interviews

Angel & Tony

Angel & Tony

A Normandy fishing community is the setting for an atypical and touching love story

Angèle (Clotilde Hesme) and Tony (Grégory Gadebois) play happy families in 'Angel & Tony'

I have no idea why the original title of this fine first feature from Frenchwoman Alix Delaporte has been changed, from Angèle and Tony to the current one. Apart from the pointlessness, it also suggests the wrong tone entirely, since Angèle is certainly no angel.

I have no idea why the original title of this fine first feature from Frenchwoman Alix Delaporte has been changed, from Angèle and Tony to the current one. Apart from the pointlessness, it also suggests the wrong tone entirely, since Angèle is certainly no angel.

The film’s first scene sees Angèle (Clotilde Hesme) having sex against a wall, in a public space in broad daylight, with a young man we will never see again. The brashness is accompanied by a business-like ennui; her payment, rather fantastically, is an action man: yes, the toy.

This twisted transaction sums the woman up. The toy is a present for her son, whom she is about to see for the first time since leaving prison. Her husband isn’t around, her crime won’t be revealed for some time. All we need know is that in her haphazard way Angèle is looking for stability, with which she can win back custody of the boy from her in-laws. And to that end, having acquired her action man, she goes to a bar to find a real one.

The contrasts are magnificent. She is edgy, restless, spontaneous, he taciturn, deliberate

She and Tony (Grégory Gadebois), a fisherman, have made contact through personal ads. Within seconds of their meeting he realizes that it’s a mistake, that this tall, lean, attractive and feckless young woman should have no interest in a short, overweight, balding man who still lives with his mother. But there’s something about her that he can’t dismiss, and so Tony offers Angèle a job, then a room, and the pair begin their querulous courtship.

The contrasts are magnificent. She is edgy, restless, spontaneous, he taciturn, deliberate; she wants to jump him at every opportunity, while giving no impression that she actually finds him desirable; he smoulders with desire, but holds back, cautious and decent. He riles at her expedience.

What they do have in common is loneliness, and need; and the possibility of the film is that eventually familiarity – even with the surprising details of Angèle’s past – will bring them together. The wonderful achievement of Hesme and Gadebois (both of whom won “most promising” performer gongs at this year’s César awards) is to make the audience want that possibility realized. Angèle may be an ill-educated mess, acting entirely on instinct, but Hesme gives her an appealing comic innocence; the actress’s long, expressive, slightly morose face reminds me a little of Stan Laurel’s. Gadebois, her Hardy, also has his long-suffering comic moments, not least when Tony attempts to teach Angèle the basics of fishmongery, such as knowing a fish from a shark.

Around them, Delaporte paints a convincing portrait of the fishing community, which is close, and family-oriented. Tony’s father, also a fishermen, recently disappeared at sea, his mother sells his catches, his volatile brother is embroiled in a fisherman’s dispute and clashes with the police. In quieter moments, we see the  local women prepare paper wreaths, for their blessing of the sea, which marks the beginning of Angèle’s integration into the community. 

With only short films to her name, Delaporte has come to her first feature with a confident, unostentatious, naturalistic approach reminiscent of that of the Dardennes Brothers and Ken Loach. As with those directors, there is nuance in every exchange and every character, however minor: when, for example, we witness Angèle’s casual tap of her probation officer’s head as she meets him in the swimming pool, or when she asks her father-in-law to correct her spelling in a card to her son, we glimpse the sweetness that might soften the resistant fisherman back in the dock. Coincidentally, Angèle spends as much time cycling in the film as the eponymous kid with a bike of the Dardennes’ last film, each journey speaking volumes about her emotional state, superbly registered on Hesme’s face. 

The result is a love story that truly earns its emotional highs, culminating in a beautiful, touching hunt for crabs on a Normandy beach.

Watch the trailer to Angel & Tony

 

This tall, lean, attractive and feckless young woman should have no interest in a short, overweight, balding man who still lives with his mother

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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