Reviewed by Roger Gook

The film shown at Keswick Film Club last Sunday was Perfumes, a charming tale of how the lives of two contrasting personalities are changed when they are thrown together by chance car journeys. There are shades of "Driving Miss Daisy" and "Green Book" but they are American and this is French, so here we get elegance, style and understatement.

Once a highflier in the perfume industry, Anne temporarily loses her sense of smell and is reduced to advising companies on camouflaging disagreeable aromas. Autocratic and remote, she employs down at heel Guillaume to act as her chauffeur. The seemingly ill matched duo ultimately find an unexpected affinity with each other which inspires Anne to endeavour to regain her status and Guillaume to repair his fractured personal life.

The screenplay is spare but avoids the cliches of an "odd couple" film. Anne and Guillaume are not caricatures nor is the director aiming for comedy. This is a quiet and thoughtful depiction of two rather lost people shown with great feeling and warmth. Through each other they slowly find some purpose in their lives. The film goes on to show Anne enlisting Guillaume to assist her with her work, seeing potential in him which he does not. Compared with the pace of most of the film this last section is perhaps a little rushed in its need to tidy up the ending, but thankfully avoids any easy resolution.  

The film's background in the perfumes industry and the work of a "nose" is fascinating but also brings an unresolvable problem. The narrative and whole dynamic of the film is based on something the audience can't share, so there is a feeling of distance or lack of connection. The many scenes of them both thoughtfully checking out smells or fragrances leaves the audience wondering what they are experiencing. Most films about a shared interest, be it music, dancing or fast cars, allows the viewer to join in, but here we are excluded.

The director has said that he thinks it's interesting to portray an unexpected friendship as it's less obvious, less marked and more subtle than an account of a love affair. This film demonstrates that by successfully offering a delightful alternative to the all too familiar gentle rom-com.