Since You’ve Been Gone

This “very long” titled French film reunites the director and star of “Amelie” (Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Audrey Tautou, respectively). While the movie lacks the whimsy of their previous collaboration, “A Very Long Engagement” is just as visually inventive, if not more. Tautou plays Mathilde, a polio victim who stubbornly thinks her soldier fiancé is still alive after World War I. People are convinced the guy’s a goner, but Mathilde clings on the fact that nobody could confirm her lover’s death.

“A Very Long Engagement” is like one of those daunting jigsaw puzzles with gazillion pieces scattered about. Yes, the movie will eventually construct the big picture, but I had trouble keeping track of the pieces. It felt like I’m supposed to take notes with one eye on the paper and read English captions with the other. I found myself lost sometimes. Nevertheless, the movie doesn’t fail to dazzle as the mystery starts to unravel. There are red herrings, messages in codes, unusual characters, peculiar stories and key scenes seen in different perspectives. Its storytelling is delightfully intricate and there’s a haunting curiosity whether Mathilde’s driven hope will crash into a solid wall of reality. It’s a long and arduous cinematic journey and it ends — well, there’s always peace in puzzle pieces perfectly in place.

Grade: A-

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