There have been many films which have depicted chocolate and romance - Like Water for Chocolate (1992) and Chocolat (2000) are two popular examples, and now comes Romantics Anonymous (Les émotifs anonymes), a charming romantic comedy starring Belgian actor and comedian Benoît Poelvoorde and French actress Isabelle Carré.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Améris, Romantics Anonymous details the quirky love affair between the gifted chocolate maker, Angélique (Carré) and the almost bankrupt chocolatier, Jean-René (Poelvoorde). Both Angélique and Jean-René have an immediate attraction to one another - but their romance does not come easy.
Angélique is painfully shy - she has been her whole life, but she works through her emotional issues by participating in a support group called 'Les émotifs anonymes' (which translates to 'emotionally challenged anonymous'). Anxious Jean-René however prefers to isolate himself as he finds it difficult to relate to others - both men and women. He meets with a psychologist regularly, but has no desire to change his ways.
Jean-René meets Angélique when he has to interview her for a position in his chocolate factory. He immediately hires her because he finds the interview situation difficult - talking to strangers makes him incredibly nervous. Angélique is grateful for the position, but soon learns she was mistaken - the job is for a sales position not a position in the chocolate factory. Terrified of having to deal with the public, she intends to reject the employment offer but before she has the chance, Jean-René unexpectedly asks her out to dinner. The dinner date was suggested by Jean-René's psychologist.
They meet for dinner, but the situation is unbearable for Jean-René - he jumps out the bathroom window, leaving a saddened Angélique alone with her cue cards. And so begins their awkward romance, but soon enough the two begin to form a relationship through their love and appreciation of chocolate.
The performances are a delight. Carré is perfect as the wide eyed Angélique, who is determined to get over her insecurities and it is nice to see Poelvoorde in a somewhat restrained dramatic role once again, after acclaimed performances in Coco Before Chanel (2009) and L'Autre Dumas (2010). Poelvoorde is better known for his comedic roles in films such as Le Boulet (2002), Narco (2004) and Rien à déclarer (2010).
Romantics Anonymous was an audience favourite at this year's French Film Festival and with its imperfect characters and use of "I Have Confidence" (J'ai confiance) from The Sound of Music (1965), it is reminiscent of Amélie (2001). Perhaps Romantics Anonymous may be considered a bit too sweet for some audiences, but if you embrace it for what it is, you are sure to enjoy the film, particularly if you like French romantic comedies.