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The absolute ‘feel-good’ movie turned 20!

It’s been 20 years since Amélie – or Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain as the original French title is – premiered in movie theatres across Paris, on 25 April 2001. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s charmingly light-hearted and brilliantly directed film is undoubtedly a truly special piece of cinema.

The urban fairytale of Αmélie and her search for love and joy has enchanted viewers for two decades and lingers in the minds of many cinephiles for its romantic innocence. On the occasion of its 20-year anniversary, we remember why we enjoy watching this film so much.

The story of an adorable, no ordinary woman

The movie is a story of a young woman who takes joy in life’s simple pleasures and dedicates herself to helping others. Amélie Poulain is no ordinary heroine. She is a woman who discretely orchestrates the lives of the people around her, trying to sort out their sad little problems.

Raised apart from other children by a father who gives her no hugs or kisses, Amélie grows into an introverted woman who observes life at a distance. That is until she accidentally discovers a hidden old rusty box, in which a young boy once hoarded his treasures. When she tracks down the boy – now a grown man – and she returns the box to the overjoyed owner, Amélie finds her life’s purpose: to make people happy. 


From that point, she devises the most brilliant – funny and at the same time touching – ways for bringing happiness to other people’s lives. But these comfortingly childlike games are interrupted by the very grown-up shock of falling in love with a mysterious stranger, played by Mathieu Kassovitz.

A clumsy, naive, but adorable heroine, slightly socially misfit, but with distinctive qualities and a vivid fantasy, wonderfully played by fresh-faced Audrey Totu, who seemed to be born for this role. Amélie’s magic formula is spontaneous and improvised, unlike that of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who has planned to the very last detail the direction of the 21st century’s absolute ‘feel-good’ movie. 

Why Amélie?

There is so much to love about this film. From its great cast and lovable characters to its dazzling visual originality and unique soundtrack. Perhaps Amélie would not be the same film without Yann Tiersen’s music, which accompanied ideally the contemporary, but at the same time so magnificently old-fashioned Parisian tale of Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

One of the most amazing things about Amélie is that it contains the perfect blend of magical realism. As professor Robert J. Hudson explains, the film fully embraces elements of the fantastic and surreal within its narrative. 

Amélie’s vivid imagination, which does everything from bringing clouds to life to spurring conversations with lamps and paintings, is what Hudson believes to be a modern utilization of fable. Jean-Pierre Jeunet makes great use of color to add vibrancy and depth to Amélie’s extraordinary world.


At the same time, the film makes exquisite use of Paris as an inviting playground for Amélie’s adventurous journey to happiness. And even though the “Paris” that Jeunet conjures up is supposed to be the Paris of 1997, it could as well be the Paris of 30 years before. The accordion music, corner cafes and absolute absence of all modern life give us a vibrant depiction of the old, romantic neighborhoods of Montmartre. 

Amélie is much more than a French romantic comedy. It’s the absolute ‘feel-good’ movie. It tells a story that has the power to make viewers feel that, still, there’s hope for us all. Amelie says that “times are hard for dreamers”, but this film definitely lets us dream.


You can also watch: 10 movies on Netflix with strong female leads.

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