Director: Martin Bourboulon
Cast: Romain Duris, Emma Mackey, Pierre Deladonchamps, Alexandre Steiger, Armande Boulanger, Bruno Raffaelli
Runtime: 1 hr 49 mins
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 25 November 2021
Synopsis: Having just finished his collaboration on the Statue of Liberty, celebrated engineer Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris) is on top of the world. Now, the French government is pressuring him to design something spectacular for the 1889 Paris World Fair, but Eiffel simply wants to design the subway. Suddenly, everything changes when Eiffel crosses paths with a mysterious woman (Emma Mackey) from his past. Their long lost, forbidden passion inspires him to change the Paris skyline forever.
When one mentioned ‘France’, the first thing that would come to the mind would most probably be Paris and that is coupled with an image of the Eiffel Tower. But what is the actual story of this iconic monument?
Based loosely on the life of engineer Gustave Eiffel, the film showcases Eiffel years before the 1889 Paris World Fair, where he has to decide between wanting to constructing a metro system and a metal structure for the World Fair itself and it was through his coincidental meeting with his ex-lover of the past that fuelled him to take on the colossal project and work towards its completion, powered by lost love.
Surely, a film that is named after the creator of what is possibly France’s biggest tourist attraction is compelling enough to make anyone want to watch the film, right? Well, not really.
The storyline is rather interesting and takes you through the early years of Eiffel’s engineering career and the manifestation of the idea of having a metal tower, centred around his love life. Even though what we know of Eiffel’s love life (or affairs) is not exactly known, watching this story unfold steadily into a lavish soap romance was rather intriguing. Yet, despite its effort to weave out a plausible plot to tie in with the main star of the film (aka the tower itself), it feels disconnected and the overall purpose of the film seems to be nearly lost, especially towards the end.
The pacing of the film is good and even out, with a smooth momentum and organic build-up, easing the viewer and not subjecting them to slowness equating to complete boredom or heightened acceleration equating to a hyper-speed rollercoaster with no brakes. Sadly, it seems like they forgot about time while filming and decided that rushing the last 15 minutes of the film was a good idea, leaving the viewers confused about the sudden escalation and leaving them hanging and wondering the rationale for speeding up.
Despite such a disruptive aftertaste, credit should still be given to the film, especially to the well assembled cast, consisting of actors and actresses of varying experiences, including veteran Romain Duris, who is well-known in the French film industry, and Emma MacKey, whom fans of the British Netflix series “Sex Education” might be delighted about.
Emma shines well in her portrayal of Adrienne Bourgès, the past and renewed love interest of Gustave Eiffel, moving from a youthful and excitable young adult to a refined and mature lady with a bit of zest. The contrast between the character shift is noticeable and evident in her style and it is definitely commendable, especially if one is familiar with her work on “Sex Education”. Even then, Romain and Emma does not steal too much of the limelight, but instead strengthens the film with their conviction, alongside the cast, all whom have made it believable.
Also believable was the setting, costume design and makeup, which proudly showcases the beauty and exquisiteness of the French style (in fashion) and France, maintaining and upholding the accuracies of its past. The colours and tone used makes the film generally fascinating and palatable to the eyes. Travel restrictions and lockdown fatigue makes the fantasy even more desirable than ever!
Overall, it is hard to place exactly where “Eiffel” should be in today’s world, where the catalogue of films seem more extensive and diverse and the possibility of works being lost and forgettable at a fast pace is possible.
It is not to say that “Eiffel” is unwatchable. It is still somewhat a marvel to see such dedication to the past of this iconic symbol,. However, it is uncertain if the romantic aspect of the film is meant to dictate and control the direction of the film or to supplement the film to ensure that it steers away from being possible a dry documentary, and that cause the film to lose its direction.
Then again, what is a film on the Eiffel Tower, located in a city known for romance and love, without a love story? Maybe a subdued dramatic story on forbidden love is needed to drive or justify its existence? Whatever one believes, it is certain that like in the past, where people would flock to see Eiffel Tower despite previous protests against the construction of the tower, the viewers will come to at least convince themselves that this film is worth the try, at least. And truly, it possibly could be. Somehow.
(A pleasantly comfortable film that will marginally satisfy the regular viewer’s appetite but sadly fails to spark inspiration or immerse joy. Go to the cinema without too much expectations)
Review by Ron Tan