Written and directed by Alix Delaporte in her feature debut, Angel and Tony is an opposites-attract drama that is at once a likeable French art-house slice of social realism and a threadbare, slow-moving snoozer.
Clotilde Hesme is the headstrong ex-con Angel, returning to Normandy and attempting a reunion with her estranged nine-year-old son Yohan (Antoine Couleau). We meet Angel as she indulges in al-fresco sex with an stranger, before he ‘rewards’ her with a Shanghai Action Man, a gift she later gives to her son for his birthday. It seems she’s struggling to leave her seedy lifestyle behind.
After an ad in a personal column, Angel then meets insular, rough and ready fisherman Tony (Grégory Gadebois). Eager, it seems, to start a new life, Angel hastily moves in with Tony, his widowed and mollycoddling mother (Evelyne Didi) and his more socially-minded brother Ryan (Jérôme Huguet). As she sells his catch from a quayside stall, Angel gives the impression this might be the first conventional job she’s held down.
Delaporte takes time and care to develop her characters and, in Gadebois and Hesme, she has a leading pair willing and capable of immersing themselves in the role; despite the limited dialogue and 89-minute running time, their understated and naturalistic performances tell us all we need to know about Angel’s dodgy past and Tony’s difficulty with commitment. As we learn more about their masked troubles, the prospect of a happy ending between this misfit couple seems evermore likely, and hoped for.
While Delaporte has crafted a touchingly sentimental film, its ponderous, relaxed pace and non-transfixing turn-of-events make it almost as dull as the film’s Normandy grey skies. It wouldn’t hurt if you dozed off for a few minutes – which, if you’re after a dose of excitement, might be your best option.