Release date: 30th May 2013
Director: James Huth
Cast: Gad Elmaleh, Sophie Marceau, Maurice Barthelemy, Julie-Ann Roth
Review by Peter Gray
French actress Sophie Marceau is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful performers to come out of European cinema, and for the majority of her career it’s been her sensuousness that has guided many a dramatic role. But how does she handle physical comedy? Within minutes of meeting her driven career-woman Charlotte Posche, she’s tripping over her feet falling headfirst onto a concrete pathway, having a key thrown at her face, before finally being soaked in water from a speeding car passing on a waterlogged road. It’s all so very farcical, perhaps a bit forced, but the utter allure of the actress makes it work.
Though it doesn’t take long for ‘Happiness Never Comes Alone’ to introduce us to Charlotte, its Sacha Keller (Gad Elmaleh) we are acquainted with first. He’s the ultimate singleton, a pianist who performs night after night at a jazz bar where he traditionally goes home with yet another nubile conquest. With his latest attempt at an advertisement jingle failing with a high profile client, Sacha isn’t expecting the seemingly accident prone Charlotte to disrupt his lifestyle but this is a romantic comedy after all, and they meet leading to a rather swift relationship which causes separate issues for the two; him in new territory with her having children and the fact she’s the appropriate age, her being of a higher social circle and that her ex-husband is the aforementioned high profile client he met with.
Though it’s easy to dismiss the physical comedy aspect of the film as a desperate ploy to liven proceedings up, it doesn’t detract from the oddball nature ‘Happiness Never Comes Alone’ exudes. The husband-wife team of Sonja Shillito and James Huth (the latter adopting directing duties as well) have constructed a film that is immensely likeable, and in a time when so many romantic comedies opt to overuse sexual material or gross-out humour to break the predictability of their story, there’s something fresh about reverting back to the old fashioned mentality in the romcom genre.
I can’t say I’m familiar with Elmaleh’s work, but as Sacha he’s note perfect. He plays the bachelor card without being overtly sexist or chauvinistic, and though his character is far too dependent on his mother (she still cleans for him and provides his groceries) he never borders on being pathetic. Apart from when he’s sharing the screen with Marceau, he’s at his best when he’s dealing with the trio of children Charlotte has from two previous relationships. Clearly not a fan of children, his awkwardness in dealing with them is honest and his relationship with them progresses at a natural rate. But the scene stealer is Marceau, balancing the line between chic and motherly, she appears all the more stimulating when willing to laugh at herself, in the process allowing the audience to laugh with and at her.
Championing the sanctity of family and allowing more mature performers to prove the romance genre isn’t relegated to whoever is the latest and hottest name in the industry, ‘Happiness Never Comes Alone’ is one of those true feel-good films that simply sets out to make you smile, and proves a winner many times over.
My rating 3.5/5 (A Parisian treat)