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A not-quite-love story set in a Normandy fishing village, “Angele and Tony” doesn’t reinvent the wheel but is nonetheless a smooth ride. Gallic helmer Alix Delaporte’s feature debut is a work of subtle intimacy about the need for a human connection, with the bulk of the heavy lifting done by pitch-perfect, wholly naturalistic perfs from Clotilde Hesme and Gregory Gadebois, who star, respectively, as a fierce young woman with a past and a coarse fisherman whose lives unexpectedly intertwine. Intimate Gallic indie is perfect fest material and could work as a niche release in Franco-friendly arthouses and in ancillary.

Angele (Hesme) hooks up with random strangers via personal ads, but her first meeting with Tony (Gadebois) doesn’t go quite as planned, and the two unexpectedly connect over several later encounters. Camera slowly moves in closer as the two get to know each other, and the nuanced turns by the leads make it abundantly clear there’s an immediate bond, even if they’re not telling each other everything straight away.

Though neither is sure where all this is headed, they both seem more than willing to see where things take them — whether by curiosity or by necessity. Auds get to know the characters just as Angele and Tony get to know each other, with the screenplay often arriving at important details in an indirect but still organic manner, as it emerges that both (though especially Angele) have needs that go beyond mere courtship.

Delaporte keeps the tone restrained and naturalistic throughout, with editor Louise Decelle letting the story breathe slowly but steadily, in synch with the characters and the forceful seaside breeze.

With her low-key approach and quiet mastery of all tech elements, Delaporte allows the actors to shine in roles that are anything but glamorous, and both Hesme (so different here from her breakthrough role in Philippe Garrel’s “Regular Lovers”) and theater vet Gadebois impressive throughout. Small supporting cast is rock-solid.

Tech credits are modest but effective. Mathieu Maestracci’s score has an appropriately wistful touch that doesn’t suger coat the proceedings, and Dorothee Guiraud’s costumes speak volumes about the characters, especially Angele, without drawing too much attention to themselves.

Angele and Tony

France

  • Production: A Pyramide Distribution release of a Lionceau Films production. (International sales: Pyramide Intl., Paris.) Produced by Helene Cases. Directed, written by Alix Delaporte.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Claire Mathon; editor, Louise Decelle; music, Mathieu Maestracci; production designer, Helene Ustaze; costume designer, Dorothee Guiraud; sound (Dolby SRD), Pierre Tucat, Arnaud Rolland, Eric Tisserand. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Critics' Week), Sept. 3, 2010. Running time: 82 MIN.
  • With: With: Clotilde Hesme, Gregory Gadebois, Evelyne Didi, Jerome Huguet, Antoine Couleau, Patrick Descamps, Patrick Ligardes, Lola Duenas.