There are the grand passions that, in the dark, the big screen delivers in a calculated, perfectly sound-tracked tsunami of emotion – love and desire foremost among them. Overlooked, perhaps because it is so subtle and quiet, so everyday, is affection. This cheesy but adorable little movie has tons of that life-sustaining human connection. It’s not quite ‘beauty and the beast’, but the hook that is designed to draw the audience in is that Alexandre (Jean Dujardin) is only four foot five inches tall. The girl he falls in love with – and their meeting, over the phone, is a brilliantly conceived and executed ‘one-take’ intro – is Diane (Virginie Efira), a tall, gorgeous blonde lawyer.
The film’s strongest visual metaphor comes soon after, when the couple, on their first date, do a parachute jump from high above the craggy Provencal coast of France – the camera work is stupendous, the thrill of letting go breathtaking. Most extraordinary, however, is how director Laurent Tirard manages to make it all so believable, for the premise is far-fetched to put it mildly and the CGI at first only underlines the silliness of it. But this is where actors come into their own; Dujardin, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Valentin in The Artist (2011), leaves you in no doubt that Alexandre is a real bloke, and he does so entirely through facial expressions and dialogue delivery.
Efira’s performance is similarly unforced as the young woman who, though she knows better, struggles to cope with the fact of Alexandre’s unique physicality. The film is an obvious (and sometimes a tad overstated) reflection on the ‘size doesn’t matter’ line, but it goes beyond that and with the lightest of touches explores the idea of integrity and the value we give it – as well as being true to her feelings for Alexandre, Diane, as a lawyer, must decide if she will defend a shonky client in court. It’s a movie that gets better the longer it goes, with an exuberant dance scene. I loved it.