Amelie Poulain was born in 1973 in Montmartre to a father who was an ex-army doctor and a mother who was a teacher with questionable sanity. Because her father, Raphael, wrongly diagnosed his daughter with a heart condition, Amelie’s parents home-schooled her and thus isolated her from the real world, causing Amelie to live in a fantasy world of her own. To appease her, Amelie’s mother, Amandine, bought her an Instamatic camera. A neighbor’s car was in an accident and blamed Amelie’s picture-taking for the crash. Even though Amelie was very young, she knew how to work the electric cords outside their apartment building, and the neighbor’s television set suddenly kept going off and on while he watched his favorite sports teams.
Audrey Tautou - Wikimedia
Amalie’s Mother Dies
When Amelie was seven years old, her mother died in a freak accident; a woman jumped from the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral and landed on Amandine, killing her instantly. Raphael became distant from Amelie and never touched her except for her yearly physical checkup. He devoted his leisure time to a garden shrine for his wife in which he placed a garden gnome which he prized highly. The gnome was a retirement gift from his regiment. Sadly, the gnome was stolen from the garden years later.
Amelie Moves to Paris
When Amelie was eighteen years old, she left home to become a waitress in Paris. In 1997, she heard the report on television that Lady Di had been killed in a car crash. This startled her so much that she dropped the glass stopper from a perfume bottle and it rolled onto the baseboard which fell away. Amelie found a hidden treasure box inside the wall which contained toys and keepsakes of a small boy. She was determined to find the owner to return his treasures to him.
Mathieu Kassovitz Attribution: George Biard - Wikimedia
Search for the Boy
The owner of the apartment building, Mrs. Wells, did not remember the family who lived there previously. She told Amelie to contact Collignon, the grocer, who would probably remember. She did confide in Amelie that her husband was in the army and left her for another woman. She had written him many letters but she never received one from him.
Collignon, the Grocer
When Amelie visited Collignon, the grocer, she saw how he verbally abused his young assistant, Lucien. Collignon did not remember the name of the former tenants either. He said his mother would remember them. Amelie learned from Collignon’s mother that the family’s name was Bredoteau.
Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party Wikimedia
The Glass Man
Amelie befriended her elderly neighbor, Raymond Dufayal, a reclusive artist who had such brittle bones that he had to keep padding on all his furniture. They called him the Glass Man. He did one painting each year, the same one over and over for twenty years. It was a copy of Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party.” Happily, he remembered that Dominique Bredoteau was the little boy’s name. Amelie was so happy to get the news, she resumed her search and found several people named Dominique Bredoteau.
The Search is Over
After many disappointments, Amelie located the right Dominique. She secretly lured him to a phone booth where she had placed the treasure box. She was in another phone booth close by and knew from his expression on finding the box, that he was the correct Dominique Bredoteau. He stopped in the restaurant after his find, and told the girls what had happened to him. He mentioned that he was estranged from his son who had a small boy, and he decided that day to try to become friends with his son once more.
Amelie Makes a Pledge
Amelie realized a strange feeling of perfect harmony, a surge of love which prompted her to devote her left to helping all of mankind. Her first act of kindness was to help a blind man cross the street. She then proceeded to tell him about all the sights, sounds, and odors they passed in the street, bringing the old man such happiness.
The Gnome Travels the World
Amelie had a friend, an airline stewardess, and she took care of the woman’s cat while she traveled around the world. Amelie slipped the gnome to the stewardess and arranged for her to take a picture of the garden gnome in every city she visited, and to send the picture to Amelie’s father, Raphael Poulain. Of course, Amelie had taken the gnome from her father’s garden to brighten his life with the letters that came regularly with the gnome’s picture.
Cafe des 2 Moulins in Paris - Wikimedia
Amelie Retaliates Against Collignon’s Cruelty
Amelie liked the grocer Collignon’s assistant, Lucien, and crafted a plan to end the grocer’s cruel treatment of Lucien. She managed to get a duplicate key to Collignon’s apartment. In the drinking glass where he kept his toothpaste, Amelie substituted his foot cream instead. She changed the time on his alarm clock. She put salt in his wine. She exchanged his bedroom slippers for a similar pair in a much smaller size. Collignon woke at 4 a.m. to go to work. His toothpaste tasted bad and his bedroom slippers were too small. He changed his ways and started to treat Lucien more kindly.
Amelie’s Fellow Workers
At work, Amelie noticed that Georgette was a hypochondriac, so that a frequent patron, Joseph, was constantly making fun of her. He was always flirting with another waitress, Gina. Amelie told Joseph that Georgette like him, and she told Georgette that Joseph was interested in her. They became good friends after that.
Amelie sent frequent videos to Dufayel showing the Tour de France and other world events to keep him abreast of what was happening in the outside world.
A Letter Arrives After 30 Years
Amelie composed a letter to Mrs. Wells and placed it inside a notice from the postal service apologizing for the lateness of the letter which had supposedly been lost for thirty years. The letter from her husband stated that he loved her, that he had made a huge mistake, and wanted to reconcile with her when he returned from the war. Mrs. Wells was overcome with gratitude for the letter.
Amelie Notices Nino
Amelie spied a strange situation in the train station. A young man was retrieving the discarded photos under the photomat machine. He was embarrassed when Amelie saw what he was doing. He got on his bicycle and sped away. In his rush, he dropped his suitcase which contained a photo album. Amelie was able to retrieve the suitcase and the album. She brought it back to the video store where the man worked. His name was Nino. She was told where she could find Nino that day. Amelie put the album in a basket on his bicycle. Nino showed up at Amelie’s apartment and it appeared that a romance was in the making. Amelie received a video from Mr. Dufayel telling her not to let Nino get away. She had been so busy with trying to make others happy that she was neglecting her own future.
Collignon's Grocery Store in Paris - Wikimedia
Pieces of the Puzzle
A mystery man whose picture showed up so frequently in the photo album turned out to be the repairman who came to the photo booths on a regular basis. And, by the way, the gnome mysteriously returned to Raphael’s garden.
This film was clever, humorous, and uplifting. The actors spoke totally in French with English sub-titles, which might discourage some viewers from watching this film. It was not a distraction to me. The film was chock full of such interesting plots, sub-plots, characters, and scenery that it was easy to forget that it was done in a foreign language. I’m sure Roger Ebert would give it two thumbs up.