Ah, now where would we be without that special type of film that the French, and only the French, do so well – slightly batty, but completely engaging and drenched in endless charm.
Populaire is the name of the typewriter with which Rose Pamphyle (Deborah Francois), a daddy-dominated provincial girl in the 1950s, tries to find her mojo.
The poor girl is clumsiness on two feet, capable of dropping anything or anyone, precisely the kind of person you wouldn’t want as your secretary – except that when she sits down to type, she’s a two-fingered whizz. And it’s on that basis that Louis Echard (Romain Duris) takes her on. Charismatic, awkward and ever so slightly mysterious, Echard sees strange potential in Rose and appoints himself her personal trainer as he encourages her to type her way to glory in the speed-typing championships locally, national yand then in New York.
For repressed Rose, the typing is the way to unlock some kind of life for herself, but she’s also unlocking something else. Slowly but surely Echard starts to fall for her, just as she falls for him. Briefly we get some kind of back story. Echard, it seems, is some kind of tormented Resistance hero, but this isn’t the kind of film to plumb any depths. There’s no real anguish to ruffle the surface of what is actually more of a fairy tale, delivered by director Regis Roinsard with charmingly-quirky feyness.
Francois, so brilliant in The Page Turner a few years ago, gives a thoroughly-winning performance, as does Duris, star of the equally-impressive Heartbreaker. Neither puts a foot wrong in a film in which the whimsy could so easily be cloying. It never is. Instead, we get a genuinely-delightful trip into the kind of world it would be great to live in: a place where dreams come true with all the warmth that the cast’s combined talents can conjure - the perfect antidote to all the computer-generated, overblown nonsense so beloved of the cinema blockbusters.