One of the closing films for this year’s International Film Festival, Hand in Hand is a quirky yet irritatingly disjointed romantic comedy/drama. The story revolves around adorable Joakim (Jérémie Elkaïm), a simple craftsman from the country, and up-tight Hélène, head dance instructor at l’Opéra Garnier in Paris. Joakim and Hélène meet unexpectedly and share a passionate kiss, the powers of which render them “stuck” to one another. Since their kiss, Joakim and Hélène control each other’s movements. This leads to a series of slapstick scenes, whereby Joakim and Hélène cannot agree over where to go. While this had most of the audience in stitches, these scenes dragged out and started to get a bit old. Just as we get used to the idea that they are “stuck”, a giant plot hole and some flimsy dialogue (“you have to really feel it”), sees them only partially stuck, when, you know, it’s convenient for the story.
While this ridiculous plot makes up a good portion of the film, the better secondary plot lies in the characters of Joakim’s sister Véro (Valérie Donzelli, who also happens to be the writer and director) and Hélène’s clingy friend, Constance (Béatrice de Staël). It’s through these characters that the central themes of the film start to emerge: loneliness and letting go. Véro is desperate to win a ballroom dancing competition with desperate to please, but ultimately uninterested Joakim, while Constance, who secretly suffers from a terminal illness, is desperate for Hélène’s love and attention. As the film develops, we are quickly taken from slapstick comedy to a more serious, surreal drama. Although I enjoyed the second half of the film more, this transition didn’t really work, and left the audience more confused than anything else.
Overall though, there are solid performances from all of the leads and some beautiful locations (especially l’Opéra itself, and the French countryside), which might just make up for the fragmented story. As a big fan of quirky French cinema (Spanish Apartment, Amélie and anything by Michel Gondry come at me), I was missing the clever dialogue and intricate story-telling that this film lacked. The film was too desperate to cover a lot of ground, and unfortunately hardly began to touch it. Then again, maybe I’m just not hipster enough.
Three out of five red berets.