Very Long Engagement, A

Only half of the title is accurate. Jean-Pierre Jeunets new romantic melodrama is certainly long, but not particularly engaging, unless you like touchy-feely movies done if a kitschy style. The movie could have been titled Amelie Goes to War, for its star is Amelies Audrey Tautou, whos rapidly becoming an international star, having made French and English-speaking films, like last years Pretty Dirty Things, and the upcoming “Da Vinci Code.”

Style is everything in the films of Jeunet, a filmmaker more concerned with creating beautiful imagery than poignant art. Based on Sebastien Japrisots acclaimed novel, published in 1991, the script was co-written by Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant. The story is rather simple, but its not about the story, its about the digressions.

Saga tells of two parallel fights: World War One, which is drawing to an end, and the fight of the young French woman named Mathilde (Tautou), who has just received a word that her fiance Manech is one of five wounded soldiers who have been court-martialed and pushed out into the no mans land between the French and German armies.

The films motto is captured in the voice-over: If Manech were dead, Mathilde would know. With an admirable steadfast faith, strengthened by home, and a stubbornly cheerful disposition (that had also characterized Amelie), Mathilde follows thorough her investigations to their extreme, if not always logical, conclusions. She pursues those who might help her, while ignoring those who will not.

As Mathilde draws closer to the truth about the five unfortunate soldiers, and their brutal punishment, shes drawn deeper and deeper into the horrors of war and the indelible marks it leaves on those whose lives it has touched, the soldiers as well as their civilian loved ones.

Some critics will dismiss the film as a trivialization of the trench war; others will hang onto the fairytale elements of the story, and the ideas of the need to believe and romantic love.

Considered to be one of the most ambitious and unusual projects in French cinema, “Very Long Engagement” is a massive production that is a realization of a decade-long dream for director Jeunet, who reportedly has been enthralled by the film's extraordinary love story ever since he came across the novel.